Williams Martini Racing’s Felipe Massa will make his final Brazilian Grand Prix start this weekend, and unlike fellow countrymen Rubens Barrichello and the late Ayrton Senna before him, he’ll actually know it in advance.
Massa announced his retirement from Formula 1 at this year’s Italian Grand Prix, which paved the way for Williams to bring in FIA F3 European Champion Lance Stroll as his replacement – although that was only announced last week.
Meanwhile Barrichello’s 2011 season saw him ride out the year without knowing whether he would or would not be back in the Williams team the following year. The most experienced Grand Prix driver in history was not retained into 2012; Barrichello’s countryman Bruno Senna wound up in the second Williams seat alongside Pastor Maldonado. Barrichello headed into IndyCar in 2012.
Ayrton Senna, of course, tragically lost his life two race weekends after his final Brazilian Grand Prix start in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola.
Massa lost the 2008 World Championship in such dramatic fashion to Lewis Hamilton, despite winning the race and briefly holding the title. It’s the defining moment of his career in more than 240 Grands Prix.
In his home race, Massa has the 2006 and 2008 wins, additional podiums in 2007 (second), 2012 (third) and 2014 (third). He was disqualified from last year’s race for a breach of temperature limits in his right rear tire.
Heading into this weekend, the 35-year-old is set for what should be an “emotional” homecoming.
“Interlagos is home. It’s the place that I grew up,” Massa said in the team’s pre-race advance. “It will be emotional racing there for the final time on such an amazing track.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying every single lap and hopefully I can manage to finish the race with a good result.
“I have won twice at Interlagos and have finished on the podium many times over the years and I hope we can get another one. It won’t be easy, but I will do everything I can for my people and for Brazil in my last race at home.”
Teammate Valtteri Bottas is also looking forward to being alongside Massa for this final trip to Sao Paulo.
“First of all, I think this is going to be such a cool race for Felipe as he is retiring and it’s going to be his last home race. I hope we can do well there and that he enjoys the weekend,” he said.
“Last year we did a good race and picked up some decent points (finished fifth). Brazilian fans are also always really passionate about Formula One. There is a nice combination of different types of corners on the track and it’s quite technical. The new tarmac that was laid there a couple of years ago has made it very grippy since, so I really enjoy racing at this track.”