“You can clearly see the scar on Massa’s face” ”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - F1 RAC­ING’S AS­SO­CIATE EDITOR JAMES ROBERTS

The dried blood is still there. Sit­ting in his Sao Paulo apart­ment, Felipe Massa is hold­ing the hel­met that saved his life at the 2009 Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix.

“I’ve never cleaned it,” says the Brazil­ian on the eve of his last ever home race. Across the top of the vi­sor is a gash that looks as though it’s been struck with an axe, the blood clearly vis­i­ble. It’s a star­tling re­minder of how close Massa came to los­ing his life, when an er­rant spring from Rubens Bar­richello’s Brawn bounced down the track and struck him on the side of the head.

In the ad­ja­cent room, his eight-year-old son Felip­inho is play­ing with some toys. Felipe’s wife Raf­faela en­ters and reaches up to a shelf to bring down a large Per­spex box. In­side it is a re­con­structed model of Massa’s skull – and there, clearly vis­i­ble – is a 20p sized hole above the left eye. She ex­plains that the surgery in­volved screw­ing a small metal plate on to his skull to patch up the hole.

As Felipe con­tin­ues his guided tour of his apart­ment, over­look­ing the Mo­rumbi park – and not far away from Ayr­ton Senna’s grave – you can clearly see the scar on the side of his face. He ad­mits that in the weeks and months af­ter his ac­ci­dent, he thought his ca­reer would be over. In­stead he re­cov­ered to drive for both Fer­rari and Wil­liams and spent another seven years rac­ing in For­mula 1.

The sea­son-end­ing Abu Dhabi GP will be his 250th, and fi­nal, F1 start and at In­ter­la­gos last week­end, there was a series of events to hon­our his last start in front of his home fans. Mar­tini had the logo changed on the Wil­liams to read ‘Massa’ and he wore a be­spoke hel­met and over­alls in the race it­self.

Af­ter we left his apart­ment last Wed­nes­day, he took me to the lit­tle kart cir­cuit where his mo­tor rac­ing ca­reer be­gan. The track is within the con­fines of the In­ter­la­gos fa­cil­ity and sits the other side of the straight-link­ing turns three and four.

Massa first started kart­ing there when he was eight and he spent the next nine years try­ing to em­u­late his idols Ayr­ton Senna and Rubens Bar­richello.

“All the time I was kart­ing, I dreamt of one day be­ing able to race the other side of that wall and to com­pete on the grand prix cir­cuit,” he says, while stand­ing on the Tar­mac of the kart track. “It was every­one’s dream and I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to achieve so much in my ca­reer.”

Lucky too, that his life wasn’t cut short in qual­i­fy­ing for the 2009 Hun­gar­ian GP. Now 35, Felipe Massa has brought his grand prix ca­reer to a close. For­mula 1 will be poorer with­out him.

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