Massa smiling into the F1 sunset
Sao Paulo (AFP)
Felipe Massa will drive his final home race at Interlagos with a broad smile and and buoyed by much affectionate support before he retires from Formula One at the end of the season.
Born in Sao Paulo he grew up adoring the excitement of the Brazilian Grand Prix and seeing his heroes racing for glory in his home city.
On Sunday, as a two-time winner of the event, he will be given an emotional send-off.
"I think it will be a very special weekend for me, for my last home race," he said. "I remember I was in the grandstand watching and supporting Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet and always dreaming to be here.
“And then I managed to get here and win two races here in Interlagos, getting a lot of times on the podium -- so it's definitely a fantastic place for me.
“I will miss this race when I see these guys racing next year. I will miss to be here, but I am so happy and proud for everything I passed through these 15 years in Formula One -- every person that I met, friends, drivers, the competition I had with these guys for quite a long time.
“So I will miss this place, some nice races around the world, but also some friends.”
Flanked by the two championship contenders and Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Williams driver Massa responded with detail and feeling to every question during Thursday’s news conference.
Asked about his fellow drivers, he said: “We are talking about the best drivers in the world.
"Everybody that gets here gets here because of their talent… The competition is really high. I think I definitely learned a lot. I think it was an amazing life experience that I had.
“It's not easy to be an F1 driver I would say, but I had a fantastic time. I will always remember them as tough drivers on the track and I would say maybe the relationship in the last (few) year's gets a little bit better outside of the track, which will be even better when all of us stop. I expect the best for them and support them."
He said he will not submit to emotions during Sunday’s race when a big crowd is expected to lend more than the usual fervour and excitement to an occasion when the drivers’ championship may also be decided.
"When you are in the car, you don't think about other things… You just think about what you want to do in the best way as you can.
“The whole race I will be concentrated on my job, trying to get the best race possible and the best result for me, and my team, especially in this moment when it's quite important in our fight with Force India.
“I think maybe when I finish the race, after the chequered flag, I think it will be very special. It will be a very amazing feeling to do the last lap in Interlagos.”
© 2016 AFP