SAO PAULO (AP) — Felipe Massa celebrated his podium finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix as if he had won the race.
Massa made two mistakes that could have been costly, but recovered to cross the finish line in third place to the delight of the home crowd packing the Interlagos track on Sunday.
Nico Rosberg won the race, ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“I’m very emotional after everything that happened here today,” Massa said. “It was like a victory because I didn’t have a car competitive enough to beat the Mercedes. I think the fans understood that and that’s why they celebrated as they did.”
Fans rushed onto the track after the race to get near the podium where the trophies were awarded and loudly chanted “Ole, ole ole, Massa, Massa...”
The 33-year-old Brazilian driver won at home in 2006 and ‘08, although that last victory felt more like defeat because in the end he lost the championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point. Hamilton needed a fifth place finish to clinch the title and achieved it with a pass over Timo Glock on the last turn.
“Maybe I’ll be back here next year fighting for the championship again and hopefully this positive energy will be here again to help me,” Massa said.
The Brazilian almost threw away his chance of finishing on the podium on Sunday. He came into the pits too fast early in the race and was awarded a five-second stop-and-go penalty, then later entered the wrong pit stall and lost time on the track.
“I thought I could lose the podium there,” Massa said. “But my car was really quick the entire weekend, I could really push hard the entire race. It was amazing.”
The third place in Brazil leaves Massa optimistic to finish the season on a high note.
“I’ve been confident that we will have the car to fight for the podium in most of the races,” he said. “I really believe we can fight and we can have the possibility to be on the podium again in the next race.”
Despite the good result on Sunday, Massa remains only eight in the drivers’ championship with 98 points. He can still overcome Jenson Button of McLaren in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi in two weeks. Button, who was fourth on Sunday, has 106 points. The season finale will be worth double points.
Massa teammate Valtteri Bottas is sixth in the overall standings with 156 points. He was 10th in Brazil after also enduring pit stop problems.