Two of Formula 1’s veterans will contest their final Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi this weekend; Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.
I’ve had to the pleasure to watch both their F1 careers from the beginning, Button when he started back in 2000 with Williams and Massa when he debuted in 2002 with Sauber. Although their early years didn’t produce stand out performances, it was in the last decade that we seen them mature into the characters we know and love today.
In 2006 Massa was given his opportunity to lead Ferrari after Michael Schumacher announced his first retirement. This gave him the lines share of coverage in the succeeding years, as he duked it out for the world championship alongside Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton – coming oh-so-close to winning in 2008. Like many I admired his class on the podium in Brazil, as he showed how strong he was in front of his home crowd.
The following year both drivers were to be in the spotlight, but for vastly different reasons. On the back of a torrid winter when Honda announced it was to pull the plug on its F1 operations with immediate effect, Button was writing his fairytale story with Brawn.
The day-glow white and high-visibility yellow go-faster striped Brawn GP 001 was probably one of the more stunning cars to dominate the sport, and for Button it completely juxtaposed how he finished his 2008 season in the pit lane looking for an extinguisher to put out the flames that engulfed his Honda.
Of course as the season went on development staggered for Brawn because they lacked the funds to improve their car alongside starting development for 2010, which meant teams like Red Bull and latterly McLaren caught up and entered the title frame.
This was also the point Massa suffered his life threatening accident when a spring off Rubens Barrichello’s car hit him on the head during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and put him out for the rest of the season.
For me Massa’s recovery to come back the following year was his finest moment in the sport. It was not long after British broadcaster Richard Hammond suffered a similar accident when filming for Top Gear, and those of you who have read his book will know how much accidents like that affect families and the people around them.
Button’s last-to-first come back in Canada 2011 was the on-track equivalent that ‘never give up’ attitude and has to go down as one of the all-time modern Formula 1 feats. I don’t think any racing fan wasn’t on the edge of their seats when that race unfolded, especially when it came down to the final lap.
In the last couple of years it seems both drivers have failed to grasp their true potential in this new hybrid era. Perhaps the cars just don’t suit them, both have contrasting driving styles yet achieve similar results. But one thing is for sure, the memories Massa and Button have given us over the years have made them legends of the sport.
Thanks guys, have a good one on Sunday.
Header image credit: XPB Images