A fifth placed finish was a good result for the Red Bull driver given the disadvantage of the engine-masqueradingas-a-wrist watch Renault engine. The Australian one again showed his racing chops to deliver that as well – reminding everyone again that despite Max Verstappen’s impact in Formula One, Ricciardo is still top dog when it comes to the pecking order at Red Bull.
Felipe Massa simply sat and said: “I’m more nervous right now, than I’ve ever been before the start of a race”.
A rueful half-grin, a voice catching with the emotion of the moment, and then the quiet, clear announcement that, yes, “after 27 years of my racing career since I started karting, this will be my last season in F1.”
Massa’s retirement comes as little surprise: Williams have been actively scouting the market for a replacement for at least one of their drivers since the start of this year. Massa’s contract was up and, with the likes of billionaire-backed Lance Stroll on the fringes of the sport, or a Telmex-gilded Sergio Perez touting himself around – not to mention the brief prospect of Jenson ‘should I stay or should I go’ Button making a sentimental return to his first F1 home – Williams have not been short of attractive alternative options.
That’s not to say Massa won’t be missed, as he has been close to the heart of the Formula 1 narrative for much of the past decade.
We’ll never forget that dark day, July 25 2009 – Hungarian GP qualifying – when in the same instant he suffered both the most ghastly misfortune (hit by a suspension component bouncing along the track) and conjured the most miraculous escape.
I never thought he’d come back from that brutal head injury and titanium skull repair; how wrong I was. But his winning days were over and there was still ignominy to endure: Hockenheim 2010 and “Fernando is faster than you” marking a career nadir.
In the round though, 11 wins and a unique status as ‘2008 world champion for five seconds’ seem about the right return for a top-flight driver who was never quite an ace, despite being capable of brilliance.
Immaculate performances at, say, Turkey’s Istanbul circuit, where he was unbeatable from 2006-2008, or his two classy Brazilian GP wins at Interlagos, in 2006 and ’08, proved his talent and his application.
It was the second of those that gave the defining Massa moment: not the race win itself (his sixth of the season); rather his immense dignity in defeat after having the world title crown ripped from the single hand he had placed upon it. Sport is rarely so stark, so cruel, but did he buckle, did he bitch? Not for one second. Still quick enough to stick a Williams on pole in 2014 (Austria), Massa has always remained the ‘sunshine guy’ I remember from a visit to his Swiss apartment back in 2002.
Shunning the stairs down to the block main door, he hopped, instead, on an adjacent slide, intended for kids. “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” he went, as he sped away, loving every second.
That twinkle in the eye still remains, undimmed, and it was with very genuine affection that the F1 press corps clapped Massa to the echo as he wrapped up his farewell announcement last Thursday.
So long, Felipe. Keep riding the slide.
A safety car mix-up allowed Antonio Giovinazzi to win the opening GP2 race at Monza last weekend, despite starting at the back of the grid. After Sergio Canamasas rolled following contact with Arthur Pic, the safety car was deployed but picked up Pierre Gasly as the leader rather than a group of cars that were yet to stop. This catapulted Giovinazzi up the order and he then passed Raffaele Marciello on the final lap to take the win. Norman Nato controlled race two to win from Gasly and Marciello... Scott Dixon won the Indycar race at Watkins Glen last weekend, but the main incident of the race was a crash between Will Power and Charlie Kimball. Title contender Power suffered concussion-like symptoms as a result of the collision and described Kimball as a “pain in the ass”. Points leader Simon Pagenaud extended his advantage at the top of the standings as a result… Martin Truex Jr won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway last weekend from Kevin Harvick, who led for the majority of the contest…