Felipe Massa says the manner in which he achieved seventh place in his final race on home soil - seeing off the challenge of former team mate Fernando Alonso - made it feel as good as a win.
The 36-year-old Williams driver – five times a victor in Brazil – rolled back the years in Sunday’s Grand Prix at Interlagos, making up a place at the start before passing Alonso at the re-start following an early safety-car period.
He then withstood huge pressure from the McLaren driver over the remainder of the race, eventually crossing the line less than half a second in front of the Spaniard as he picked up his best result since finishing sixth in Bahrain in April.
“I did everything in a perfect way from the beginning to the end, fighting with a guy that I was fighting a lot in my career,” said an emotional Massa afterwards. “It was such a big pleasure to arrive in front of him and to finish the race with my head up – I think that’s the important thing.”
Last year’s race in Brazil saw Massa, in what was originally supposed to be his final home race, crash out at the half-way point before bidding farewell in a tear-filled walk down the pit lane. After his result on Sunday, the Brazilian says he now feels he can head into retirement on a high.
“Last year I had such amazing emotion, walking through the pit lane, but I was missing the result. Today I think I finished with a result like a victory, doing more than maybe what the car was able to do.
“Everything was perfect: the start, overtaking a few cars... I knew the re-start could be the only chance to overtake Alonso. I knew he had better pace than me.
“I managed to pass him on the re-start, but after that it was so difficult. I knew that keeping him behind for 71 laps would be very difficult, but I managed to do it.
“So I think today was definitely like a victory for me. I’m so proud, I have so much emotion for everything that I have passed through [in F1] after such a long time. It is a race I will never forget.”
With six world championship points gained, Massa moves back in front of rookie team mate Lance Stroll in the drivers’ standings with one round to go. The Brazilian hasn’t scored more points than a team mate over the course of a season since 2008.