Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of glorious careers of two highly decorated Formula One drivers — Jenson Button and Felippe Massa.
Button will be taking his hands off the wheels after figuring in 305 races while Massa after 250. But the former, who announced that he would be stepping down as a McLaren driver for next season after 16 years on the circuit, hasn’t ruled out a return in 2018. While he has reiterated that he is embarking on a sabbatical from Formula One, he will be going into the race thinking it will be his last race.
“I think that’s the best way to be. At this moment in time, I don’t want to be racing in F1 past this race, and that was the whole idea. So I think of this as my last race, and hopefully everyone else does as well,” said the 2009 champion, adding: “I don’t want to go in thinking it isn’t my last and it is my last. It is true I have a contract for 2018 but at this moment in time I am not going to be racing in 2018.”
Now in his 17th season, the Briton pips McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso to the honour of being the most experienced driver in the F1 and went on to add that the whole idea about having a contract was to keep his options open.
“In three months’ time, when I have eaten myself stupid and thinking of things to do in the future, maybe I realise I need F1 back in my life, but in this moment of time that isn’t the case — so this is my last race,” said Button, who revealed that he was pretty satisfied with the way he has gone about his business in the sport he wanted to excel since childhood.
“It’s been a long journey, since eight years old until now. Everything before Formula 1 was work to try and get to Formula 1. You get to Formula 1 with many dreams and you aspire to be something, and hopefully you leave the sport with memories and that’s something I definitely do have,” said Button, who was seen flanked by his mother Simone Lyons at the track.
“Lots of amazing memories, lots of life-changing memories, some good, some bad, and also to walk away with a world championship is a very special feeling as well,” added Button, who with 15 wins has been shared among three teams: Honda, Brawn and McLaren.
“I’ve raced with two of the teams I dreamt of racing with as a kid, Williams and McLaren, and when I did win the world championship it was with a privateer team, which I think is also pretty special. I will definitely step away from Formula 1 happy with what I’ve achieved and knowing that my life really does start now.”
Massa, who arrived after an emotional farewell he received from the crowd as he walked into pit lane after retiring from his home race in Brazil two weeks ago said: “It’s difficult to describe. That first moment after I crashed I was not happy. I wanted to finish my last race at home, I even prepared a Brazilian flag in corner one, and I was so disappointed to finish like that!”
The Williams driver, whose 11 wins came in the first three of his eight seasons with Ferrari, admitted that he was in tears as he walked towards the grandstands. “I just had an amazing feeling, started to cry, couldn’t hold it. That walk was like forever! Then when I got to pit lane and saw all the teams out, that I couldn’t believe.”