Perez sits one-point behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship after winning last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Mexican has never led the world championship in his F1 career but was on course to do so in Jeddah had Verstappen not taken the fastest lap on the final lap.

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With Red Bull enjoying a significant advantage over the rest of the field in F1 2023, Perez is realistically Verstappen’s only challenger for the title this year.

However, Massa - who narrowly missed out on the 2008 title to Lewis Hamilton - believes Charles Leclerc would be Red Bull’s “biggest challenger” if Ferrari could give him a title-challenging level of car.

“Like Max and Lewis, Charles is an exceptional driver,” Massa told Bild

“He is currently the biggest title challenger for Red Bull. 

“Their second driver, Sergio Pérez, is too inconsistent. Just like Carlos Sainz from Ferrari.”

Massa rates George Russell highly, particularly as he managed to out-score Hamilton in 2022.

“I trust him to do that,” he added. “One must not forget: Last year, in his first season at Mercedes, he left Lewis behind in the world championship. 

“An incredible performance. Before that, only Nico Rosberg succeeded in this in Lewis' entire career in 2016 [Jenson Button as well in 2011]. George is a top driver.”