SAO PAULO — Felipe Massa said his second and final goodbye to home fans in the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday with a seventh-place finish that the Williams driver insisted “was just like a victory.”

The 36-year-old Massa delivered one of the best starts of the race and finished ahead of long-time rival Fernando Alonso of McLaren.

Massa announced his retirement before the Brazil race in 2016, but was eventually invited back to F1. This time he says his decision to leave is final.

“I am going to miss you a lot. The thrill I felt today was immense, just like last year. I will never forget today,” the Brazilian said after being invited to the podium in a crowded Interlagos track in Sao Paulo.

His 7-year-old son Felipinho was the first to congratulate him after the race, which was won by Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

“Daddy, I’m so proud of you… by the way, I loved your start!” Felipinho said on the team’s radio. The Brazilian jumped from ninth to sixth and was only overtaken by world champion Lewis Hamilton.

An emotional Massa said he will spend more time with his family after his F1 retirement, but he is likely to join the electric-powered Formula E series in 2018.

Massa’s first farewell to Brazilian fans was much less exciting. On the 48th lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix last year he lost control of his Williams and crashed onto the entrance of the pit lane.

A runner-up in the 2008 season, Massa has 11 wins in 269 starts in his F1 career.

Massa currently has 42 points and is 10th in the 2017 standings.

His last race in F1 will be in two weeks in Abu Dhabi.

Massa’s retirement means there will be no Brazilian drivers in F1 for the first time since 1969.

Author photo
MAURICIO SAVARESE
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.