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MONZA, Italy – It was a clearly emotional Felipe Massa who stepped onto the podium at Monza to loud cheers from the Ferrari faithful after the Williams driver finished third at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Massa spent eight years at Ferrari before departing for Williams at the end of last season and is still fondly remembered by the team's passionate fans.
"There's no better place to be on the podium than here at Monza," the 33-year-old said. "It's very emotional. I'm not here in red but I'm with you all always. So thank you very much and you are the best."
Massa competed in 139 races with the Italian team, second most only to seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. The Brazilian won 11 races with Ferrari and finished on the podium 36 times. He missed out on the 2008 championship by a single point.
It was the first podium for Massa with Williams, and the second in Monza after he finished fourth at the iconic track in his final two seasons with Ferrari.
"It's a great day for us," Massa said. "It was a great race, a great start. The pace was very good. Not enough to fight with Mercedes but really had a good pace, had a very good car. The team did the perfect job."
WHAT'S IN A SMILE?
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff laughed off suggestions he had enjoyed watching championship leader Nico Rosberg blunder his way out of a victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
Rosberg was leading at Monza when, under pressure from teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton, the German drove straight through the Monza circuit's first chicane and was slowed as he slalomed through obstacles on the escape road. Incredibly, it was the second time in the race Rosberg had made such a mistake.
As Hamilton easily passed Rosberg, Wolff was pictured on television smiling at that exact moment.
"Whoever picks that up and tries to interpret anything in such a picture must be out of his mind," Wolff said. "First of all, it's not live. So whenever the camera's pointing on you the signal comes later. So it wasn't synchronized with the picture.
"I will hide in the engineering office next time. There was a smile I think when the two were getting closer to each other. It was a smile, 'Here we go again in a close battle.' That was the smile."
Hamilton went on to win the race and close the gap to Rosberg to 22 points.
MONTEZEMOLO "NOT INDESPENSABLE"
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is "not indispensable" according to the head of the Italian team's parent company.
Talk of Montezemolo's possible departure has dominated the paddock at Monza during the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix, despite the man himself insisting he was happy to stay for another three years at least.
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Montezemolo's departure was not in the pipeline but added that "no one is indispensable."
"Ferrari is controlled by Fiat," Marchionne said, from elsewhere in Italy. "We are at the service of af the company. When a company changes ideas or they don't share the same objectives any more, things change.
"There are two elements of Ferrari that are important for us: economic results, on which Montezemolo has done great work, and the sporting management. Ferrari's heart belongs to winning in F1. Seeing for so many years Ferrari in these conditions, in these positions, without winning anything from 2008, saddens me. They have the best drivers in the world, garages of exceptional quality and engineers who are really good."
Fernando Alonso retired from Ferrari's home Grand Prix on Sunday with a mechanical failure, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth, more than a minute behind winner Lewis Hamilton.
The team dropped to fourth in the constructors' championship.
MONZA FUTURE STILL UNCERTAIN
The future of the Italian Grand Prix was still very much up in the air during what could turn out to be the penultimate weekend of Formula One racing at Monza.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has threatened to drop Monza — one of the sport's historic circuits — when its contract runs out at the end of 2016.
However, Andrea Dell'Orto, the new director of the group which manages the racetrack, is staying positive following a meeting with Ecclestone on Sunday.
"We confirmed that there is a desire to find an agreement, the cards are on the table and we're working towards 2016," Dell'Orto said. "Ecclestone has by no means already decided, we're still talking."
Monza, which first hosted an F1 race in 1922, is one of the most famous and beloved tracks on the circuit. Every Italian Grand Prix since 1950 has been held there except the 1980 race, which was held at Imola.
EXTRA DATE ON THE CARDS FOR 2015
Formula One looks set for a return to a 20-race calendar next year, according to a draft version circulated to teams at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The addition of the Mexican Grand Prix to the calendar means there will be 20 races next season for only the second time. It last occurred in 2012.
The first Mexican Grand Prix in 23 years has been penciled in for Oct. 25, before the United States race in Texas.
The 2015 season is scheduled to begin in Australia on March 15 and end in Abu Dhabi on November 29, although dates may change before the calendar is put forward to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council for ratification later this year.