MONZA // Felipe Massa no longer wears the red of Ferrari, but he was greeted with raucous chanting by the Italian marque’s famous tifosi as he enjoyed a dream return to his former team’s home race.
The Sao Paulo-born Williams driver, racing on Brazilian Independence Day, finished third at the Italian Grand Prix to secure his first podium in more than 15 months. The result arrived just hours after Williams said that the veteran would retain his race seat next season alongside teammate Valtteri Bottas.
“It’s been a great day,” said Massa, 33, who joined Williams at the start of the year following eight seasons with Ferrari. “I’m really happy, because it’s so special to be on the podium here in this amazing place that I really love and in front of these people that really like me. To hear the fans sing my name was amazing.
“I had an incredible time with them for many years and just because I’m not in red anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get the same pleasure and happiness to be there in front of all these incredible people.”
Massa said he received text messages of encouragement from former colleagues at Ferrari before the race and, having started from fourth position, he immediately leapfrogged his teammate.
With great straight-line pace, he never looked troubled thereafter. While Bottas finished on the podium at four of the past five races, yesterday’s result was Massa’s first top-three finish since finishing third with Ferrari at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.
“It’s a message that we’re competitive,” Massa said. “It’s a message that we are there, we are fighting. It is amazing to see how Williams were last year and now we are fighting with big teams.
“We missed the podium a little bit during the season, but we will keep fighting now until the last race and I really hope we can get this third place in the Constructors’ Championship.”
With Bottas finishing fourth, Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari finishing ninth and Fernando Alonso retiring with a mechanical problem for the first time in 86 races, Williams took a 15-point lead over the Italian marque in the standings.
Bottas said: “It’s a pity, because I came in before the race with the mentality that this is probably the best chance of the season to fight for the win, so fourth position is not really that satisfying.
“But we need to look at the positives, because in the end, we got good points for the team and now we are ahead of Ferrari. Which, if you compare to last year, is a really good achievement.
“I’m also pleased to see Felipe get his first podium of the season – hopefully we can be up there together soon.”
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