Felipe Massa has welcomed his former teammate Michael Schumacher's decision to return to Formula 1 and says he has no problem with the German leaving Ferrari in order to race again with Mercedes.
Schumacher and Massa became close friends when the Brazilian was a Ferrari test driver in the early 2000s and then joined Schumacher in the race team for 2006. Massa believes Schumacher retired too soon, and that his subsequent consultancy role with Ferrari proved he could not let racing go.
"I think that when he ended his perfect career, he stopped at a difficult moment," said Massa. "It's always difficult to think about stopping when you're fighting for a championship up to the last race.
"He had an incredible career, but he never stopped racing in reality – he never stayed home without racing and without doing what he had been doing in the past. So, in the end, he decided to return. It's his decision, and in his place if I had wanted to race because something was missing in my life, maybe I would have taken the same decision."
While some Ferrari fans have criticized Schumacher for ending his 14-year association with the team to join Mercedes, Massa has no problems with the move, pointing out that Ferrari's race team was already full.
"Thinking about all that has happened with Michael and Ferrari, of course it's a bit strange now to see Michael racing in another team," said Massa. "However, it is also true that Ferrari already had two drivers as they had also reached an agreement with Fernando [Alonso] and I had a contract. So it was difficult for him to return with Ferrari.
"We also have to look forward and continue with our lives and, of course, now he's back on the racetrack and that's simply what happened."
Schumacher originally considered a comeback when invited to substitute for Massa following his Hungaroring accident. A neck injury prevented that return, and Massa's eventual replacements Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella then struggled with the 2009 Ferrari and failed to score. Massa reckons Schumacher would also have had a tough time.
"It was not an easy car, especially as they drove the car at a moment when we were really focusing on the 2010 car and other teams had come in with new developments and were improving," said Massa. "So, it was not the best possible time for them to take my place. It was not easy for them to tackle races with this car. I think that Michael would have also had some problems."
Massa added that while Schumacher remained a close friend off-track, he would treat him the same as any other rival when they battled during grands prix.
"It was extremely important to me to be his teammate – it helped me to grow, to learn, to reach a higher level as a driver," he said. "But we are racing one against the other – so it could be Michael, it could be [Lewis] Hamilton, it could be [Jenson] Button, it could be any other driver.
"In races it is a competition. Outside the racetrack our friendship is going to continue."