SAO PAULO • Tears flowed in the Formula One pit lane as Brazilian Felipe Massa hugged his family, thanked his past and present mechanics and waved to the crowd after crashing out of his home grand prix on Sunday.
The Williams driver, who will bow out in Abu Dhabi at the end of next week after his 250th race, had hoped for one last hurrah at a circuit where he was twice a winner with Ferrari but it was not to be.
After his crash, an emotional Massa received a rapturous reception from his home crowd and a guard of honour from rival teams.
He crashed into the barriers when he aquaplaned off in treacherous wet conditions at Interlagos on lap 46 of the 71-lap race.
After climbing from his wrecked car unhurt, he walked back to the pit lane draped in a Brazilian flag and waved to the spectators in the packed main straight grandstand.
As the 35-year-old strolled towards the Williams garage, the Mercedes and Ferrari teams stepped out into the downpour to applaud him, the Italian outfit hugging their former driver in an outburst of affection.
One of the best-liked men in the paddock, Massa was struggling to hold his emotions in check. "It is so difficult to explain the feeling, it's heartbreaking," he said. "This is such a special place for me."
Massa grew up in the Interlagos neighbourhood and was a regular spectator at the track where he spent much of his boyhood.
"God knows what to do, just stopping in that place, the feeling from the people there was so special," he said.
"It was not the right result, but I will never forget this day, all of these people will be in my heart for the rest of my life."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE