Felipe Massa has ensured that he will receive a warm farewell from his current Ferrari team-mate, after rating him higher than seven-time world champion – and former partner at the Scuderia – Michael Schumacher.
The Brazilian will see his partnership with Fernando Alonso end after this year's season finale at Interlagos, but three-and-a-half years alongside the Spaniard has been enough for Massa to suggest that the two-time world champion is 'more perfect' than the man he shared the Scuderia's garage with in 2006.
Schumacher was already a seven-time champion by the time that Massa was installed at Maranello, and would retire at the end of their first year together, but the Brazilian – who was also team-mate to Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn took the 2007 title for Ferrari – reckons that Alonso may be the 'most complete' driver that he has seen in the top flight.
"I've always had very strong team-mates,” he told Sky Sports
' Martin Brundle, “I always learnt that you need to be perfect because, if you're not perfect, they will be in front of you.”
Although he challenged for the 2008 world title – and thought he had won it for ten seconds before it emerged that Lewis Hamilton had snatched the fifth place he needed for the crown on the very last corner – Massa has generally been seen as Ferrari's 'second' driver, and his partnership with Alonso has been punctuated by several incidents of team orders.
As well as the now infamous 'Fernando is faster than you' moment that denied him an emotional victory on the anniversary of the 2009 Hungaroring accident that nearly claimed his life, Massa notably took a grid penalty after out-qualifying the Spaniard in last year's USGP and has seldom made it difficult for the two-time champion to pass him in track if it was advantageous to his championship position.
"For sure, I've had some tough times as well with strong team-mates [and] the one I was suffering more [against] was Alonso,” he admitted, “I think maybe he's more complete.
"Schumacher was very, very good. He was amazing and a very complete driver as well. But I think maybe Alonso is even more perfect."
Ironically, with seven races remaining in his Ferrari career, Massa has the same number of wins for the Scuderia as Alonso does, but once again trails the Spaniard by some way in the title race. After Brazil, he will make way for Raikkonen, who returns to the Prancing Horse after impressing for Lotus in the two years since his return from a sabbatical in the World Rally Championship. The Finn partnered Massa at Maranello between 2007-09, before making way for Alonso.
Despite earlier suggestions that he could not bear to drop down the grid after eight years with Ferrari, Massa now appears more willing to consider a midfield seat if it keeps him in the top flight. The best option currently open to the Brazilian would be a direct swap with Raikkonen, but the second seat at Lotus is expected to be hotly contested, with erstwhile Ferrari candidate Nico Hulkenberg also thought to be in the running.
"I want more,” Massa insisted, “I want to win more races; I want to make more pole positions. When you're not happy, you need to try and carry on and try to do more, so I'm not happy.”