Backing up the Brazilian's own assertion, Ross Brawn has insisted that Felipe Massa will fully deserve the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship drivers' crown should he prevail in his see-saw battle with McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton come season's end.

After some in the F1 paddock suggested that if Massa does win, it will only be thanks to intervention by the FIA, the sport's governing body, the Ferrari star hit back by stating that if he clinches the title, he will fully merit it [see separate story - click here].

Whilst Jonathan Palmer also claimed that the 27-year-old has made too many errors and been too inconsistent this year to deserve the trophy [see separate story - click here], Honda team principal Brawn - who worked closely with Massa when they were both at Ferrari in 2006 - clearly disagrees.

"I think he would be a worthy world champion," the Englishman is quoted as having said by F1SA. "There is no issue there.

"He has been a bit of a slow grower, really, in that he was quite reckless and made a lot of mistakes early in his career but he was always very quick.

"In the year I worked with him at Ferrari, we had our ups and downs during the year but I think he has performed extremely well. Felipe has come on a long way."

Massa - who has comprehensively out-performed defending F1 World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen over the course of the 2008 campaign, triumphing five times to the Finn's two victories - sits seven points adrift of Hamilton in the standings with three races to run and 30 points remaining up for grabs.

Former Williams and McLaren ace Juan-Pablo Montoya, however - now racing in NASCAR circles back across the Pond - recently laughed at suggestions that Massa would be a worthy title-winner.

"Next question," the outspoken Colombian brusquely told the BBC. "We'll skip that one..."