F1 stalwarts bid farewell

Button and Massa, veterans with 555 grand prix starts between them, leave the paddock

ABU DHABI • Jenson Button and Felipe Massa made emotional exits from Formula One on Sunday after taking part in the final race of their long and successful careers.

Button, the 2009 champion, and Massa, who missed out on the 2008 title in dramatic circumstances after winning his home Brazilian Grand Prix, were both given warm farewells by their teams, friends and regulars of the paddock.

The Briton was forced to retire after only 12 laps of Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when his car suffered a suspension failure.

It was a disappointing end to 17 seasons in the sport for the 36-year-old, who had started 12th on the grid. On Friday he all but confirmed that the race would be his last as an F1 driver, saying he was treating the grand prix as the final one, despite having an option to return in 2018.

He managed to get his McLaren back to the pits of the Yas Circuit, and was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd. Button stood on his car for the last time to wave to the fans before being embraced by his tearful mother, Simone.

Only former Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello raced in more grands prix than the Briton (305).

Massa, 35, finished in ninth position to score two points in his final race for Williams, the team with which Button started his career.

"I am so proud and it is very emotional," said the Brazilian. "I have enjoyed it all so much and will have wonderful memories of my time."

Massa drove 250 races for Sauber, Ferrari and Williams.

He reiterated his desire to see more competitiveness in F1, saying: "I hope what everybody hopes, to see more than one team fighting for the championship and to see more drivers winning races. That's what everybody has hoped since a long time in Formula One."

Button came into Formula One aged 20 in 2000 and, like Massa, has been much admired for his easy-going personality.

"Our reliability is something we pride ourselves on - we don't have failures. It's so unusual. It's unlucky, but to be fair I don't really care," he said on Sunday.

"But it doesn't change any feelings of my career and ending my career. I'm very content with what I've achieved. Tonight's going to be a hell of a lot of fun."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'F1 stalwarts bid farewell'. Print Edition | Subscribe