Felipe Massa completes retirement U-turn and returns to Williams
Massa back at Williams months after retiring from F1; Will partner teenager Lance Stroll in 2017; Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 16/01/17 4:00pm
Felipe Massa has completed his sensational sporting turnaround by returning to Williams just two months after retiring from Formula 1.
The Brazilian said his goodbyes to both the sport and the Grove team at last November's season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, but has agreed to partner Lance Stroll for 2017 after Mercedes finally persuaded Williams to part with Valtteri Bottas following Nico Rosberg's shock retirement.
Mercedes' swoop for Bottas in the off-season backed Williams into a corner with the team requiring an experienced driver to partner 18-year-old rookie Stroll - and Massa, a veteran of 250 grands prix, fills that void on a one-year deal.
"I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve," said Massa. "Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.
"I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40."
The move certainly comes as a surprise, particularly after Massa gave such an emotional farewell at his home grand prix at Interlagos in November. The 35-year-old received a guard of honour through the pitlane, while the Martini logo on his car was replaced by 'Massa' on the front wing, with the rear wing adorned with 'Obrigado' - 'thank you' in Portuguese.
"Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to," claimed deputy team principal Claire Williams.
"He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go.
"Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us."
Felipe Massa's F1 stats
|Teams||Sauber, Ferrari, Williams|
|Debut||Australian GP 2002|
|Points versus team-mates||1124 v 1786|
|Championship best||2nd (2008)|
When making his original decision last year, Massa said it was the "right time" to retire from the sport - and he claims Williams are the only team who could have persuaded him to return.
Massa may be famed for being the 30-second world champion after his heartbreaking 2008 title near miss but his popularity has been perpetual.
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He will extend his F1 career into a 16th year, having driven for Sauber, Ferrari and Williams, registering 11 victories and 41 podiums.
The final part of F1's driver jigsaw was completed by Sauber, with Pascal Wehrlein partnering Marcus Ericsson.