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Schumacher welcomes Massa 04 Aug 2005

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari talks with Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Race Day, 30 May 2004

Michael Schumacher believes new team mate Felipe Massa has won his Ferrari seat on merit, despite suggestions that the German’s number-one status has limited the choice of drivers available to the team.

Given Ferrari’s status, there was some surprise that the champions didn’t target a high flyer to partner Schumacher, although, contract issues aside, many questioned whether such a driver would be willing to join a team so focussed on the seven-time champion.

However, while Massa may not be regarded as a future champion in the Alonso-Raikkonen mould, Ferrari are in a better position than most to judge the Brazilian’s true talent - he served as a test driver for the team in 2003 - and Schumacher believes the choice is a good one.

"I am happy for Felipe,” he said. “In my view he deserves this chance as he is doing a good job since quite a while now. We have seen his talent lately in F1 but also when he was test driver for us.”

Schumacher, who has always said he plans to see out his Formula One career with Ferrari, also hinted that Massa had not been short of other offers. “We have not been the only ones who were interested in him,” he added.

Massa made his Formula One debut with Sauber back in 2002, quickly gaining a fast reputation. After his testing stint at Ferrari he returned to the Swiss team for 2004. He scored points, though over the course of the season he was out-performed by team mate Giancarlo Fisichella - a man also once linked to Ferrari.

This year, Massa has by and large been showing the way to new Sauber partner Jacques Villeneuve - notably the man who beat Schumacher to the 1997 world title. They currently sit one place apart in the championship standings, Massa on eight points to Villeneuve’s six.