F1: Felipe Massa to retire at end of 2016 season

    Story highlights

    • Felipe Massa to retire from F1
    • Massa last race will be in Abu Dhabi
    • Brazilian has 11 wins and 41 podiums

    (CNN)Felipe Massa, one of the most popular and talented drivers on the Formula One grid, is to retire from the sport at the end of the 2016 season.

    The Williams Racing driver -- a veteran of 242 grands prix -- posted a seven-minute video message on his official Facebook page, Thursday, confirming his departure after 15 years in F1.
      Massa, 35, said his career has given him "great pride, joy and happiness" before going on to thank a long list of people who have supported him including his current team, Williams.
      "Williams is a team I have such affection," Massa said. "I (will) keep racing and will give my best to make a great second part of the championship...
      "I want to thank Claire (Williams) for the opportunity I had to be part of this team that is in my heart — for all the mechanics, engineers and all the people who are part of my history of my career at Williams."
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      A storied career

      The Brazilian joined the British racing team co-founded by Frank Williams in 2014 after spending eight years at Ferrari.
      He made his F1 debut for Sauber in 2002 before joining the Italian team in 2006 where he partnered seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and latterly Fernando Alonso.
      It was during his time at the Italian team that Massa enjoyed his most successful period in the sport winning 11 races — his first at 2006 Turkish Grand Prix — and 36 podiums. A further five top three finishes would follow at Williams.
      His final win was at the Brazilian Grand Prix -- the last race of the 2008 season -- in what turned out to be a bittersweet affair.
      Vying with Lewis Hamilton for the drivers' championship, Massa initially thought the title was his when he took the checkered flag at Interlagos.
      Hamilton, who led the standings coming into the race, needed to finish fifth at worst to guarantee the title, but started the final lap running in sixth place.
      Massa's and Ferrari celebrations were cut short when Hamilton passed Timo Glock in the final corners of the race to secure a first drivers' championship.
      It would be the closest Massa would get to winning the world title.
      A career low came less than a year later, when his helmet was struck by stray suspension spring from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
      The impact fractured his skull leaving him fighting for his life in intensive care in a Budapest hospital. However, after emergency surgery above his left eye and a subsequent operation to fit a titanium plate to strengthen the skull, Massa made a full recovery allowing him to return for the 2010 season.
      Massa was denied a 12th F1 win at the German Grand Prix that year, when Ferrari requested his new teammate Alonso be allowed to overtake while he was leading the race.
      Ferrari's "team orders" were widely condemned by fans and also earned a $100,000 fine by world motorsport's governing body, the FIA, for breaking Sporting Regulations.

      The speculation begins

      Massa's announcement comes ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix — the 14th of the 21-race season — at Monza with Williams currently fifth place in the constructors' standings two points behind Force India.
      The Sao Paulo native has his home grand prix at Interlagos to look forward to on November 13 before bringing the curtain down on his F1 career in Abu Dhabi two weeks later.
      With the Brazilian vacating his seat, speculation about who will replace him is set to intensify.
      In August, Williams team boss Claire Williams hinted that Jenson Button might be an option for the 2017 season.
      "He is a great talent in the car, but also outside of the car and we need a driver like him," Williams told Press Association Sport.
      Button, the 2009 world champion, is currently at McLaren but has yet to be confirmed as part of their line up for next season.
      Ahead of last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, the Briton said he expects his future to be decided imminently.
      "I can't put a timescale on it, but it will be soon enough," Button said.
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