Sao Paulo: An emotional Felipe Massa received a rapturous reception from his home crowd and a guard of honour from rival teams after crashing out of Sunday’s incident-packed Brazilian Grand Prix.
The retirement-bound Williams driver collided with the barriers when he aquaplaned off in treacherous wet conditions at Interlagos on lap 46 of the 71-lap race.
After climbing from his wrecked car unhurt, he walked back to the pit lane draped in a Brazilian flag and waving to the spectators in the packed main straight grandstand.
As the 35-year-old strolled towards the Williams garage, the Mercedes and Ferrari teams stepped out into the downpour to applaud him, the Italian outfit hugging their former driver in an outburst of affection.
One of the best-liked men in the paddock, Massa was struggling to hold his emotions in check.
"It is so difficult to explain the feeling," he said. "This is such a special place for me."
Massa grew up in the Interlagos neighbourhood and was a regular spectator at the track where he spent much of his boyhood.
"God knows what to do, just stopping in that place, the feeling from the people there was so special," he said.
"I just say 'thank you' to everyone. It is an honour to be part of this world and it is difficult to explain the feeling.
"It was not the right result, but I will never forget this day, all of these people will be in my heart for the rest of my life.
"It is a day that I will never forget."
Twice a winner on his home track, he agonisingly almost won the championship with victory in 2008, but the title was snatched from him by Lewis Hamilton, who passed Timo Glock to take fifth place and the title on the final lap.