Felipe Massa has revealed he only expected Red Bull to be capable of challenging Mercedes for the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship in part because current leaders Ferrari don't have a 'top name' on the engineering side.

Ferrari is engaged in a burgeoning 2017 F1 title battle with reigning champions Mercedes after winning two of the opening four races with Sebastian Vettel, giving the German a 13 point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

It is a return to form its former driver Massa is both impressed and surprised by having predicted Red Bull - with Adrian Newey penning its RB13 - to be the only team capable of challenging Mercedes' monopoly on the F1 world championship for the past three seasons.

Indeed, Massa admits he didn't expect to see Ferrari coming on so strongly with the competitive SF70H having opted against hiring a 'top name' to replace former Chief Technical officer James Allison by instead promoting Mattia Binotto internally.

"Ferrari is doing something that nobody expected this year," the 2008 F1 runner-up said. "Nobody expected to see Ferrari doing what they are doing, and that is really nice. It shows that [just] because you have Adrian Newey in your team that [doesn't mean] everything will be better than everybody.

"So it is just for the people to work together in different areas even if they don't have like a top name they can do a good job. Nobody expected that.

"In November if you ask me I would say the only team that can fight Mercedes is Red Bull. So Red Bull did not do the right car and Ferrari did."

Massa, who initially retired from F1 before being coaxed back to replace Mercedes-bound Valtteri Bottas at Williams, adds that he is enjoying seeing a more open title fight in 2017 despite Red Bull's disappointing form following three different winners from the opening four races.

"At least two teams are fighting. When you have four cars fighting for victory, people want to see the fight, they want to see all the teams winning. If you can see every race a different team or different driver winning it would have been perfect, fantastic. But at least championships with more than two cars fighting is much nicer for the show and public."

Massa is currently eighth in the 2017 F1 standings with a best finish of sixth place from the season opening Australian Grand Prix and the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Brazilian was involved in controversy during the closing stages of the Russian Grand Prix when he got between race win contenders Bottas and Vettel on the final lap.

With Vettel suggesting Massa helped Bottas 'twice' - inadvertently or not - as they attempted to pass, the former Ferrari driver retorted that Vettel is 'always complaining on the radio'.



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