ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Felipe Massa bowed out of Formula One in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with his head held high and one last point in a career that brought him 11 wins and almost a world championship with Ferrari.
The 36-year-old Brazilian said he was ready for the next step, whatever that might be.
“For sure, I will miss many things — racing against amazing drivers and competing in the best car and the best category in the world,” he said after finishing 10th for Williams under the Yas Marina floodlights.
The farewell was one of several for Massa, who also retired last year before being brought back hurriedly by Williams in January as a replacement for Valtteri Bottas when the Finn went to Mercedes.
He had also said goodbye to his home fans in Brazil two weeks ago.
But there was still plenty of emotion as the sport saluted a man who lost out to Lewis Hamilton in the 2008 championship by a single point and then endured life-threatening head injuries in Hungary in 2009 when hit by a bouncing spring in qualifying.
“You wouldn’t meet a more universally-liked driver, I think,” said long-time friend and colleague Rob Smedley, now head of performance engineering at Williams after a stint at Ferrari as the Brazilian’s race engineer.
“It will be weird coming to a grand prix and not having him there,” he told Sky Sports television.
“We’re mates so we’ll see lots of each other. That won’t change. He’ll carry on racing because it’s in his blood. I think this is now definitely, undoubtedly, the right time to retire from Formula One.”
Massa ends the season 11th overall, with 43 points compared to his teenage rookie Canadian team mate Lance Stroll on 40.
But while the bulk of Stroll’s points came from a third place finish in Azerbaijan and sixth in Mexico, Massa has been a more consistent scorer with 13 top 10 finishes in 20 races compared to the Canadian’s seven.
“He’s been unlucky, he hasn’t got all the points he should have done, he should have won in Azerbaijan,” said Smedley.
“But weekend in and weekend out we rely on him and to have a driver like that who is loved by the team, loved by the paddock and is still performing at the top of his game, there’s no better way to go out.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ian Chadband