SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Tears flowed in the Formula One pitlane as Brazilian Felipe Massa hugged his family, thanked his past and present mechanics and waved to the crowd after crashing out of his home grand prix on Sunday.
The Williams driver, who will bow out in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month after his 250th race, had hoped for one last hurrah at a circuit where he was twice a winner with Ferrari but it was not to be.
“It was heartbreaking,” the 35-year-old, who wrapped the national flag around his shoulders after getting out of the car, said of the crash at the final rain-soaked corner in front of grandstands packed with fans.
When he arrived back at the garages, with the pitlane closed while the field lapped behind the safety car, mechanics from other teams came out to applaud in an emotional tribute before his wife and young son arrived.
If that was a breach of safety regulations, with the pitlane again opened to cars as Massa reached the line of Ferrari mechanics, nobody cared.
“I didn’t want it to finish like this,” said the driver, whose last win was at the Sao Paulo circuit in 2008 when he missed out on the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton — the winner for Mercedes on Sunday.
“I wanted to finish with a good result for the fans, for Brazil, for my team, for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t.”
“It’s impossible to explain my feelings from today, for everything that has happened. So much love,” added the Brazilian. “I was just walking, in front of my people, with this amazing reaction.
“I never expected this in my life, I don’t think I deserved as much as this.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes