Felipe Massa says retirement as a Formula One driver will not actually sink in until a few months after his final race at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Just 12 months after performing a U-turn on his future in F1, Massa, 36, will bid farewell to motorsport’s premier competition when he gets behind the wheel for the last time in a career spanning 15 seasons.
With 11 wins and 41 podiums, Sunday’s race in the UAE capital will be his 269th start, with only Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen competing in more grands prix.
And as Sunday gets closer, Massa is fully focused on giving his best shot but knows the reality will not hit him until he’s back home in Brazil with his family.
“I know it is the last race but when you are in the car, you are not thinking about anything,” said the Williams driver during the team’s meet and greet session at Mushrif Mall in Abu Dhabi ahead of race weekend.
“You are always looking to do your best. There are so many things you want to work to do the best. So you don’t realise it is your last race. Definitely maybe after some months when you are not doing anything you start to realise my moment and my career has finished.
“But then you look at the other way, in trying to work out your mind what you are going to do.”
Despite being one of F1’s veterans, Massa will look back on a career that is missing a world title. The closest he got was in 2008, winning his home grand prix at Interlagos, only to be denied by Lewis Hamilton, when he overtook Timo Glock at the final corner to finish fifth and secure the extra point to pip the Brazilian in the world championship.
Despite failing to get his hands on that elusive trophy that day, Massa insists he has no regrets. He even considers it among the biggest highlights of his career.
“I had amazing moments to be really emotional in my career,” said Massa, who sits 10th in the drivers’ standings this season with 42 points, his highest finish being a sixth-place in Bahrain and Australia.
“The first time I drove a Formula One car, the first podium, the first victory and then I think the moment that stands out is when I won the Brazilian Grand Prix 2006. Then to win it in 2008 was special as I was fighting for the championship as well.
“I won three times in a row in Turkey which is also a fantastic track. I had great moments with Williams as well. I finished second here in 2014 fighting for victory again. Last two years driving in Brazil was emotional.
“I’m very lucky to be in this type of profession and I did what I love to do and dreamt to do. Visiting countries and so many different people and racing in the best category in the world and against the best.”
He added: “You always have things that you didn’t do right like mistakes. But I think you are always learning with mistakes. I would say no regrets and I really learnt and enjoyed the amazing moments and also the difficult moments.”
Although he will not be seen in F1 action from Monday, he is already looking at other options in racing after retirement.
“I have time to decide what I want to do,” he says. “Yes, racing is part of my life. It is part of what I was doing as a kid. I will be racing but I will be finding time for other things as well.
“I will look for the new moment of my life. I’m sure I will find another car that I can enjoy and have fun.”
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) November 25, 2017
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