Getty Images

Massa honored with son on radio, special podium after P7 in Brazil

Leave a comment

Felipe Massa’s ultimate final Brazilian Grand Prix, run today for Williams Martini Racing, made up for with a result what last year’s emotion-laden send-off in the rain lacked.

After crashing out in the rain in 2016 and then walking down pit lane to cheers and applause from his home crowd in Sao Paulo, Massa more than made up for it on track this afternoon following a spirited fight to P7 – best of the rest today behind the top six finishers from Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

Massa’s race, after starting 10th, saw him escape the first lap carnage that took Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne out of contention and move ahead of Fernando Alonso into fifth place, with Alonso sixth.

The two former Ferrari teammates sparred from there, Massa holding off Alonso for the bulk of the rest of the race despite Alonso’s Honda-powered McLaren appearing to have better balance and pace in the infield section.

However it was the Mercedes-powered Williams that held the advantage on the straights and Alonso was unable to make a pass of Massa for seventh. While seventh isn’t much to celebrate, it was Massa’s second-best result this year, after coming sixth in both Australia and Bahrain in March and April. The result gave Massa six points and also slots him back ahead of Lance Stroll for 10th in the driver’s championship.

Massa’s send-off this go-around lacked the pure spontaneous moment that 2016’s did, but it was still no less sweet.

To start off, son Felipinho offered a special message of thanks to his dad over the team radio as he crossed the line, which gave the usually prickly Formula 1 paddock “all the feels.”

“Daddy, I’m so proud of you, and wherever you go I will support you. By the way, I loved your start!” the younger Massa enthused over the radio (at 2:04 in the above clip).

That was followed up a thumbs up from Alonso as he entered parc ferme, an embrace of his Williams crew and teammates, and a salute to the home crowd.

“I’m happy for him. Zero mistakes. I tried to put pressure on him. Hopefully he has a great future in another category and a happy life,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race.

Then he got another special sign-off – a surprise trip to the podium after the top three had completed their interviews, with the most experienced F1 driver in history in countryman Rubens Barrichello.

“I’m really emotional today because of all of you guys,” the senior Massa said. “Thank you for everything we’ve done together. All the support.

“There was all the energy I felt today for making the best race I could. To be honest I’m so happy for my race, did the best with what the car could achieve. Even the people I didn’t work together with, I love you guys.”

Massa’s next racing move following the end of his F1 career after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks is yet-to-be-determined. Speaking to NBCSN this weekend, he ruled out an IndyCar switch, but has still been linked to potential drives in the FIA Formula E Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship down the road.

As far as encores to end in Brazil though, this was a good one for a driver who once again had given it his all.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.