After a long and distinguished career, Felipe Massa is retiring from Formula One, leaving a seat open at Williams next season.
Sound familiar? That’s because this isn’t the first time Massa and Williams have made that exact announcement.
The Brazilian driver revealed his intentions to leave F1 at the end of last season, but agreed to postpone his departure after his teammate Valtteri Bottas left for Mercedes (to take Nico Rosberg’s place). But Williams have been dragging its feet in deciding on its lineup for next season, and Felipe isn’t waiting around to find out what they decide. Either that, or he already has.
One of the most seasoned drivers in the sport, 36-year-old Massa made his grand-prix debut in 2002, returned again in 2004 (after a season off as a Ferrari test driver), and has been on the grid ever since. He’s driven for Sauber, Ferrari, and now Williams, winning 11 races along the way and finishing a career-best second place in the 2008 championship, just a single point behind Lewis Hamilton.
“I have now enjoyed four great years with the team, but my career in Formula One will finally come to an end this season,” said Massa. “I take so many great memories with me as I prepare for my final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and although they will be emotional, I am looking forward to ending on a high note and preparing for a new chapter in my career.”
Felipe has been linked to a drive in Formula E or DTM, but the bigger question at the moment is who Williams will sign to take his place in F1. Massa’s current teammate Lance Stroll is in contention, as are former F1 drivers Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta. Having been dropped by Red Bull/Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat could also be in contention.
“The team will announce its 2018 driver line-up in due course,” read the statement on Massa’s departure. Williams is one of three teams that has yet to confirm its roster for next season, alongside Toro Rosso and Sauber.