Massa, Button set for midfield starts in final F1 appearances

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Felipe Massa and Jenson Button will start their final Formula 1 races from midfield grid slots following their last qualifying sessions on Saturday night ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Massa announced over the Italian Grand Prix weekend in September that he would be retiring from F1 at the end of the year, with Button confirming two days later he would be taking a step back from a race seat for 2017.

Although Button does have a contract with McLaren for 2018 should he be keen to return and the team have a free seat, the Briton is treating Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi as his last.

Massa enjoyed the upper hand in qualifying, making it through to Q3 ahead of Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas before securing 10th place on the grid.

“It definitely was not a very easy qualifying today, but I was happy with the result,” Massa said after the session.

“To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the tires but I just tried my hardest to set a good lap. I had a very good time in Q2, which was important.

“I definitely expected a bit more from my lap in Q3, but maybe I didn’t have as much grip in the tires as Q2. We’re not far from where we expected to be and we will see what we can do compared to the other cars.”

Button was unable to get into to Q3, qualifying 12th despite finishing only two-tenths of a second behind teammate Fernando Alonso, who ended up ninth.

“It was good fun out there this evening. I enjoyed it,” Button said.

“As the track cooled down, we needed to balance the car up with more front-end grip, but didn’t have anything left in the car, so the resulting understeer cost me a little bit of time.

“To be fair, however, 12th position isn’t a bad place to be for tomorrow: we get to run new tires. With these tire regulations, it’s often better to start outside the top 10 in order to best free up the strategy for the race. And I’d definitely rather have a good race tomorrow than a good qualifying today.

“None of the compounds last for long around here, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. Points are definitely possible.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.