By Sergio Flores
At the age of 36, Felipe Massa’s successful F1 career will come to an end at the final race of the 2017 season. A career that began in 2002 driving for Sauber, followed by eight seasons with Ferrari, scheduled to end at the wheel of a Williams at next week’s Abu Dhabi GP.
Since his debut at Sauber, Felipe showed he was competitive. In his first season, he scored 4 points which included a 5th place at the Spanish GP. In his second season, his best result was a 4th place at Spa, and scored 12 of Sauber’s 34 points. In his final season at Sauber, he outscored teammate Jacques Villeneueve.
Massa’s best years in F1 were at Ferrari. He always had a world champion as his teammate at the Scuderia; Schumacher (2006), Räikkönen (2007-2009), and Alonso (2010-2013). During his time at Ferrari he won 11 races, including a hat-trick at the Turkish GP, and multiple wins at Bahrain and Brazil. His biggest moment in F1 was winning the 2006 Brazilian GP, making him the first Brazilian to win at Interlagos since Ayrton Senna did it in 1993. In 2008 he became first Brazilian to lead the championship since Senna back in 1993, he won the Brazilian GP with a dominant performance, however the championship went to Lewis Hamilton by a single point in one of the most dramatic last laps F1 has ever seen. Massa’s maturity and sportsmanship were highly praised by drivers, teams, motorsport media and fans.
The following year, Massa’s helmet was struck by a falling suspension spring from Barrichello’s Brawn at the Hungaroring. After the crash his condition was “life-threatening but stable”, he did not race the rest of the 2009 season and was replaced by Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella. Felipe came back for the 2010 season, but after Ferrari signed Fernando Alonso to become the Scuderia´s top driver with a multi-year contract, Felipe knew he had to play a supporting role for the rest of his Ferrari days.
A wiser and experienced Felipe joined Williams in 2014. His performance has been low-key, he has 4 podium finishes and has been outperformed by his teammate in all 4 seasons. However, his role has been more of a mentor for young drivers. In his last home race, Massa was best of the rest with a 7th place to the delight of the home crowd.
The 2018 F1 season will be the first one without a Brazilian driver since 1969, we will miss for sure that passion and fire Felipe brought to the track with his brilliant drives.