Top 20 Stories of 2016
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Top 20 Stories of 2016

Top Stories of 2016, #13: Massa and Button bow out - for now

Next in our countdown of the biggest motorsport stories of the year is Formula 1 saying goodbye to a pair of popular veterans in Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. At least, for now...

Top Stories of 2016, #13: Massa and Button bow out - for now
Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams Martini Racing
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams, throws hats to fans
Felipe Massa, Williams in the FIA Press Conference
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-31
Jenson Button, McLaren
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-31 heading to retirement with a broken front suspension
Jenson Button, McLaren, with his girlfriend Brittny Ward
Jenson Button, McLaren in the garage

During the Italian Grand Prix weekend in September Massa and Button - two drivers with a combined total of 31 years of F1 experience - announced that they would be stepping back at the end of the season.

Massa formally announced his retirement in Monza, in a deliberate echo of Michael Schumacher’s first retirement in 2006, while Button is officially “on sabbatical” but is not expected to return to the grid in 2018.

The tense season finale in Abu Dhabi was an emotional weekend for both men. But it was the penultimate grand prix of the year, his final home race at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos, that was the most poignant for Massa.

Having crashed on the main straight in appalling conditions, bringing out the third Safety Car (discounting those used for the start and restarts) of the afternoon, Felipe waved a final farewell to the Brazilian crowds before making his solitary way back to the pits on foot.

Walking down the pitlane, Massa was given a standing ovation by his pitlane rivals, with former colleagues at Ferrari joining the rest of the field in applauding the retiring racer as he made his way back to the Williams garage joined by wife Raffaela and son Felipinho.

After that rapturous farewell, even finishing in the points at his final grand prix in Abu Dhabi two weeks later was something of an anticlimax.

And now, in the wake of Nico Rosberg's shock retirement from F1, it seems like Massa has the option on the table of extending his career by one more year, with Valtteri Bottas looking set for a move to Mercedes and Williams needing to partner Lance Stroll with a driver of suitable experience.

Button has a change of heart

For Button, things seem more clear-cut - although when news that the 2009 champion would not be racing a McLaren in 2017 first broke, he was keen to assuage fears that his sabbatical was really a retirement in disguise.

“To be clear,” Button said, “I’m definitely not retiring. I’m contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car development, and I’m sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point.”

But by the end of the season, Button appeared to be experiencing some doubts, telling the media in Abu Dhabi: ”I go into this weekend thinking it's going to be my last race. I think that's the best way.

"At this moment in time, I don't want to be racing in F1 beyond this year. It is true that I have a contract in 2018 but at this moment in time I am not going to be racing in 2018.

"The whole point of this [option for 2018] was if in three months' time I had eaten myself stupid and I changed my mind. But I don't want to go into this race thinking it's not my last race and it is."

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