This weekend’s United States Grand Prix (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) may have special meaning for drivers Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.
Massa has already announced that this will be his last drive in the USGP as he’ll retire from F1 at year’s end, while it could well be Button’s last race in the fifth USGP at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
“Of all the newer tracks COTA is the one I enjoy the most,” Massa said in the team’s advance release. “It’s a really nice track to drive because you have everything; high speed corners, low speed corners and the long straight, which is good for overtaking.
“I also really enjoy Austin itself. It’s a very nice city with good restaurants and an amazing atmosphere during the race weekend. I’ve managed to get good results there in the past so hopefully I can enjoy a great race this year.”
Massa has twice finished fourth at COTA (in the inaugural race in 2012 and again in 2014), once apiece with Ferrari and now Williams Martini Racing. He finished 12th in 2013 and was a career-worse 17th in the 2015 race there; failing to finish last year in the rain.
Massa is currently 10th in the 2016 F1 season standings.
As for Button, while he hasn’t formally announced this will be his last time at COTA, it could well be. Stoffel Vandoorne is set to replace him at McLaren next year. Button stays on as McLaren reserve driver for 2017.
“I’m looking forward to heading back to Austin,” Button said. “I’ve been spending more and more time in the States recently and Austin is a city with passionate fans that really love their racing.
“The atmosphere downtown is really relaxed and we usually take the opportunity to sample the famous Texan cuisine in one or two of the restaurants over the course of the weekend. I’ve always liked racing at this circuit and we managed to put up a good fight last year despite not having the best outright pace, so I’m hoping for more of the same and a bit of a boost after the disappointment of our result in Japan.”
Button is coming off an 18th place finish at Suzuka, in what was a tough race weekend for McLaren. He’s also finished 18th or lower in four of his last seven events, leaving him 15th in the F1 standings coming into this weekend.
In the first four F1 races there for McLaren, Button has finished fifth (2012), sixth (2015), 10th (2013) and 12th (2014).
“COTA is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, and has a bit of everything: fast corners, slow corners and heavy braking zones, so you need a car with good balance, which tends to be one of the strengths of our car,” Button said.
“There’s lots of fast, sweeping corners in the first sector, the long straight in the second sector, and then the infield section in the final sector which is tight and twisty with long apexes and high g-forces.
“You really need to prepare the car for everything. For a driver it’s great fun and I hope we enjoy a better result there than in Suzuka.”