Massa column: My secret farewell to home fans
In his latest column, Felipe Massa looks back at one of the most emotional moments of his life as he competed in his home grand prix for the final time.
The Brazilian Grand Prix was a beautiful week. It was intense, exciting, and ended with a Formula 1 weekend that I will not forget for a lifetime.
Obviously I knew beforehand that Interlagos would be special and it began with some fantastic events.
Then my work at the track began and I had my first surprise: out team's Martini sponsors wanted to celebrate my final home race by replacing their name with mine!
They also prepared a race suit with a very special livery, plus I had commissioned a brand new helmet for this occasion.
But the grand prix was not just a time for celebration because there was a job to be done on the track - and things started really well.
In practice on Friday the feedback was immediately positive, and also on Saturday morning the good signs were confirmed.
But when we took to the track in the qualifying session, something did not work.
We were convinced that we could get through to Q3 without any major difficulties, but instead both Valtteri Bottas and I were left outside the top ten.
It was disappointing, because the job done in practice seemed to go in the right direction, and instead we found ourselves in the middle of the grid.
By the time we got to the track on Sunday morning there were no doubts about the conditions in which we would be racing.
The rain was never very intense, but on the laps to the grid I knew immediately that there would be a big risk of aquaplaning - which was confirmed in the first laps of the race.
However, the biggest problem was that of visibility. I assure you that being in the middle of the pack is very different to being at the front of the field.
The water being thrown into the air by the cars ahead of me meant there was literally a wall of spray - which was especially bad on the long start-finish straight.
There were times when the visibility was zero, creating potentially dangerous situations, such as when Kimi Raikkonen had his accident on the main straight.
Among other things in the early stages of the race, I had picked up a penalty of five seconds due to overtaking Esteban Gutierrez before the safety car line.
In my defence, Esteban had slowed down and I had no idea where the line was that I had to stay behind him until
After receiving the news of the penalty, I discussed with the team about changing the strategy.
It made no sense to remain outside the top 10, so I switched to the Intermediate tyre and served my five seconds at the pitstop.
Back on track, my pace picked up. But the intermediate, while being faster, was more risky.
I found that out the hard way when I lost control of the car due to aquaplaning. I touched the wall but it was not a big impact, and for a moment I hoped still to be able to continue the race.
But in that first collision I think a tyre picked up a puncture, because it suddenly veered to the left and hit the crash barriers hard.
When I got out from the car I could hear the applause of the public, and shortly afterwards a marshal approached me and gave me a Brazilian flag. I looked at him to say thank you and he was in tears.
It was an emotional scene that affected me very much and as I walked into the pits I heard a crescendo of people shouting my name. I was really moved.
A few minutes before I was disappointed not to have finished the race, but had managed to keep my emotions in check.
But scenes I just could not imagine came when I got back into the pitlane. With the Brazilian flag in my hands, I looked up and saw the mechanics of Mercedes in their race suits had come out into the pits to applaud.
Then the boys at Ferrari and Williams did the same. If our garage had been at the far end of the pitlane I think all the teams would have come out. It was an incredible scene, and something that I personally have never seen in a pitlane during a race.
I cannot find the right words to thank all of those who came to say words or give me a handshake.
While people often think that F1 is a very cynical world, there is also a human side - and I had the good fortune to experience that first hand on Sunday.
There is also one last special story about Sunday in Interlagos that I have to share with you.
About an hour after the race I climbed up onto the podium. Why? Because people would not leave the track without a final farewell.
And so, as a great privilege, I paid homage to an extraordinary public.
Thank you all. I will have a long time to think back on this magical weekend, but now is the time to prepare to do my best at my final race in Abu Dhabi.
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Massa column: My secret farewell to home fans
- Formula 1