Felipe’s farewell to F1

INTO THE PITS: Williams Mercedes Grand Prix driver Felipe Massa of Brazil has announced that, at 35, he is quitting Formula One after 15 years behind the wheel. His replacement is unknown at this stage. Picture: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
INTO THE PITS: Williams Mercedes Grand Prix driver Felipe Massa of Brazil has announced that, at 35, he is quitting Formula One after 15 years behind the wheel. His replacement is unknown at this stage. Picture: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Last Saturday Williams Mercedes Grand Prix driver Felipe Massa announced he would retire from Formula One racing at the end of the season, although he left the door open to competing in other categories of racing in the future.

The move was not unexpected as Massa had retired at the end of last year only to reverse his decision when Williams asked the then-35-year-old Brazilian to reconsider his position so he could replace the outgoing Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas had got the call up from Mercedes Benz to replace newly-crowned World Champion Nico Rosberg who shocked everyone when he announced his retirement from the sport.

Like so many F1 drivers, Massa started his career in karts at age eight, and enjoyed ongoing success during the next seven years before moving to the Formula Chevrolet championship which he won.

He moved to the Italian Formula Renault 2000 championship in 2000, winning the title and the next year, progressed to the Euro Formula 3000 championship which he dominated with six wins from eight starts.

He commenced his F1 career in 2002 with Red Bull Sauber, and the following year became the official test driver for Ferrari before moving back to Sauber for the next two years.

Massa returned to Ferrari in 2006 scoring his first F1 win in Turkey and a second win in his home country to finish third overall in the championship.

Three wins in 2007 had him finishing fourth in the championship but 2008 was to prove a watershed year with five wins to his credit and second place in the championship to Lewis Hamilton going into the final round in Brazil.

Hamilton had a seven-point lead and the equation was pretty simple.

Massa had to win the race and hope that Hamilton finished outside the top five for the Brazilian to win the title and join his idol the late great Ayrton Senna to be champion.

Massa qualified on pole with Hamilton starting fourth and Massa led the rain-affected race from start to finish, crossing the line believing he had won the title.

Hamilton had been fifth going into the last lap but made a mistake allowing Sebastian Vettel to go through and it looked to be over for the British driver.

But then Timo Glock, who was ahead, also made an error and Hamilton moved to fifth to win the championship by just one point.

Unaware of this development Massa and his team and family were euphoric believing he had won the title only to be advised moments later that Hamilton had finished fifth.

In 2009 Massa was lucky to survive a freak incident while qualifying for the Hungarian GP.

A suspension spring which dislodged from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn, hit Massa’s helmet.

The result was an  injury which put him out for the rest of the season.

Massa stayed with Ferrari through to the end of 2013 and while he failed to score anymore wins, he did achieve nine more podiums and, most importantly, proved to be a very good backup to his team mates.

In 2014 Massa moved to the once-great Williams team and these were lean times with only five podiums in 77 races across four years.

During his F1 career Massa has contested 267 races over a 15-year period scoring eleven wins, a total of 41 podiums and 16 pole positions.

The upcoming race in Brazil this weekend will hold special significance for Massa and no doubt his adoring fans will be hoping for a good result.

The big question now is who will replace him in 2018 and join young Canadian Lance Stroll who is already locked in.

Probably top of the list is current reserve driver 31-year-old Paul Di Resta who last raced in F1 at the Hungarian GP this year standing in for the unwell Massa.

Despite not having even practiced in the car his performance was considered as outstanding considering the last time he raced in an F1 car was in 2013.

During his F1 career Massa has contested 267 races over a fifteen year period scoring eleven wins, a total of fourty one podiums and sixteen pole positions.

He already has a link to William’s engine supplier Mercedes Benz as a works driver in the German Touring car championship which should help his chances.

Polish driver Robert Kubica is also considered a chance with a five year F1 career that netted him one victory and twelve podiums between 2006 and 2010 in 76 starts driving for both BMW Sauber and Renault.

The 33-year-old’s F1 career ended when he received extensive arm injuries in a rally crash in February 2011.

However, since then he has been working towards getting back into grand prix racing.

He has completed several successful test sessions with both his old team Renault and also with Williams.

The outside chance is 23-year-old Pascal Wehrlein.