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Felipe Massa confirms F1 retirement at end of 2016 season

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Felipe Massa has announced that he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the 2016 season, 14 years after making his debut.

In a press conference at Monza on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Massa announced that he would be calling time on his F1 career at the end of the year.

“I must start by especially thanking my wife and my father, my whole family, my manager Nicolas and all the people who have supported me throughout my career,” Massa said.

“Thank you to God for giving me the opportunities I have had in life and, above all, for protecting me. A huge thank you as well to everyone I have worked with over the years. Every team I have been a part of has been a special experience, and not only in Formula One.

“I have so many great memories over the years and thank everyone in all the teams I have come through to help me get to where I am today. My career has been more than I ever expected and I am proud of what I have achieved.

“Finally, it is a great honour to finish my career at such an amazing team as Williams Martini Racing. It will be an emotional day when I finally conclude my Formula One career with my 250th Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi.”

In the press conference, Massa confirmed that he chose to announce his retirement at the Italian Grand Prix as it was where his mentor, Michael Schumacher, announced his first retirement in 2006. Massa also revealed that he had not spoken to any other teams about an F1 drive for 2017.

Massa made his first F1 start with Sauber in 2002 before joining Ferrari as a test driver for the 2003 season, starting a long-running association with the Italian marque.

The Brazilian returned to Sauber for 2004 and 2005, leading to a drive with Ferrari from 2006 that would see him score 11 grand prix victories.

Massa came within seconds of winning the F1 drivers’ championship in 2008, only for Lewis Hamilton to make a pass at the final corner of the last lap of the season to take the title by a single point.

Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season after being hit on the head by a spring while traveling at high speed during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, sustaining a severe injury.

2010 saw Massa return to Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso, but failed to rekindle the form that saw him help the team to back-to-back constructors’ championships in 2007 and 2008.

Massa left Ferrari after eight seasons to join Williams in 2014, with whom he scored his first pole position in over five years at the Austrian Grand Prix. Together with Valtteri Bottas, Massa played a part in the team’s resurgence with five podium finishes, the last coming at the Italian Grand Prix in 2015.

Massa’s announcement is the first wheel set in motion for the 2017 driver market, freeing up a seat with Williams and ruling himself out of contention for any other seats.

Jenson Button, Sergio Perez, Felipe Nasr and Alex Lynn have all been linked with a drive at Williams for next season, while Valtteri Bottas is yet to be confirmed as claiming a seat.

Massa’s next move will also be of interest, with peers such as Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello going on to find success in series such as the FIA World Endurance Championship and Brazilian stock cars after ending their F1 careers.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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