It was a seismic weekend for Formula 1 at Monza, the grandest grand prix circuit of them all.

First we learned that Williams driver Felipe Massa, a wonderful servant of the sport and a warrior to boot, was set to hang up both of his at the year’s end.

Then we found out on Saturday that Jenson Button, one of Britain’s greatest drivers, may well be following the diminutive Brazilian on to that deck-chaired balcony reserved for retired F1 types. Then it emerged that that the guy that provides the ship on which they all sail, Bernie Ecclestone, might be joining them.

Whatever the outcome of the now near certain sale of the sport by current majority shareholders CVC in the near future, the circumstances of which currently remain clouded in conjecture, the sport will look very different in 2017 - although it’s hard to believe Ecclestone won’t have some say in it.

But almost certainly when the chequered flag falls on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale in November, Button will have undertaken 305 starts - the third highest of any driver, behind Rubens Barrichello (322) and Michael Schumacher (306). And the Briton, who is 36, would be even higher in the list than the seven-time world champion, but for the two Monaco Grands Prix he missed, in 2003 (through injury, following a heavy crash in practice) and 2005 (when his team BAR-Honda was given a race ban for a rules infraction). Those, by the way, were the only two races Button has missed since he made his debut for Williams in the 2000 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.


That is an extraordinary level of longevity by any measure for this game.

The fact that it feels like this may be a year or two too soon for him to be calling it quits says as much for his enduring youthfullness - which can be put down in part to the fitness borne from his triathalon addiction - as it does for his deep volume of talent. It’s probably also the reason he’s kept some caveats in place.