Massa wav­ing good­bye to For­mula 1 while But­ton has no plans to re­turn

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Brazil­ian Felipe Massa is def­i­nitely re­tir­ing af­ter the sea­so­nend­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this week­end and Bri­tish driver Jenson But­ton has no plans to come back.

With more than 550 races be­tween them, the highly pop­u­lar 30-some­things will be missed on the F1 cir­cuit.

The 36-year-old But­ton is mak­ing way for Bel­gian driver Stof­fel Van­doorne, who will part­ner Fer­nando Alonso at McLaren next year.

But­ton re­tains an op­tion to race in 2018 if both par­ties agree, al­though at this stage that seems un­likely.

“I go into this week­end think­ing it’s go­ing to be my last. I don’t want to be rac­ing in For­mula One be­yond this race,” said But­ton, who will be in a con­sul­tancy role with McLaren next year. “This is the way I think about it. But who knows, this could change in six months or one year.”

But­ton won the F1 ti­tle against the odds in 2009 for the Brawn team, and has 15 GP vic­to­ries over­all.

Af­ter his first F1 race at age 20, But­ton is set to start his 305th GP on Sun­day, putting him just one be­hind seven-time F1 cham­pion Michael Schumacher of Ger­many.

“I will def­i­nitely step away from For­mula One happy with what I’ve achieved,” said But­ton, who hopes F1 will be­come more com­pet­i­tive when rule changes aimed at mak­ing cars faster come into play next sea­son.

“The main rea­son to turn on and watch For­mula One is the fight­ing. Ba­si­cally Mercedes are do­ing too good a job and no one else is do­ing a good enough job,” But­ton said. “Hope­fully the rule changes will help teams find a new di­rec­tion.”

It’s not been a great sea­son for ei­ther driver. Massa is 11th over­all, while But­ton is 15th, and nei­ther of them has fin­ished higher than fifth this year.

Massa, one of the most well­liked driv­ers on the cir­cuit, over­came a se­ri­ous head in­jury sus­tained at the Hun­gar­ian GP in July 2009.

He never won the F1 ti­tle, miss­ing out the year ear­lier in the cru­elest fashion.

Af­ter win­ning the sea­son-end­ing GP in Brazil, he thought the ti­tle was his and his Fer­rari team be­gan cel­e­brat­ing wildly.

But Lewis Hamilton moved up to fifth place right at the end of the race and pipped him to the ti­tle by one point.

Sun­day will be Massa’s 250th start and this time he in­tends to fin­ish the race, af­ter crash­ing out of the Brazil­ian GP two weeks ago.

“I even pre­pared the Brazil­ian flag,” said the 35-year-old Massa, who won his 11 ca­reer races driv­ing for Fer­rari. “I was so dis­ap­pointed to fin­ish like that.”

Still, at least it gave him the chance to walk around the track and soak up the at­mos­phere from his de­voted fans.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to de­scribe. It was such an emo­tional feel­ing,” said Massa, who was 20 when he first raced in F1. “I started to cry and I couldn’t hold it back.”

Then, as he en­tered the pad­dock, he was given an ova­tion.

“When I got back to the pit lane I saw all the teams out (to greet me) and I couldn’t be­lieve it,” Massa said.

It re­minded him that, even though he never took the ti­tle dur­ing his hey­day with Fer­rari, he won wide­spread re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion.

Wil­liams driver Felipe Massa (left) speaks with McLaren driver Jenson But­ton Photo: AP

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