Felipe Massa bids farewell to the crowd after his final home city race at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 12, 2017
Sao Paulo (AFP) - Felipe Massa paid an emotional tribute to his home city fans at Interlagos on Sunday after a battling drive to finish seventh in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The 36-year-old local hero, who will retire at the end of the season, was surrounded by his family and friends as he bade farewell from the podium during an interview with his friend and fellow-Paulista Rubens Barrichello.
Barrichello was his early mentor in Formula One and his predecessor at Ferrari earlier in his career.
Massa fought to hang on to his seventh place for Williams in a final scrap with two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda.
“It’s so difficult to explain my feelings,” said Massa, who had retired in 2016 but returned for another year with Williams after Valtteri Bottas left to join Mercedes in January.
“I felt so emotional when I finished the race. It was a very difficult race for me. For me the race was like many victories that I took. I drove a perfect race from the beginning to the end, I managed the tyres, managed everything around the car with the pace I had. Today it was definitely like a victory.”
Massa waved a Brazilian flag aloft from his car on the slow-down lap, as well as receiving a message from his son, Felipinho, over team radio. Race officials then invited Massa up onto the podium.
“It’s so amazing to finish the race and feel the emotions of the people after such an amazing race,” he said.
“Last year, I had so much love and emotion from the people, but I didn’t finish the race like I wanted. Today I finished the race like I wanted.”