The Brazilian, who took 11 victories for Ferrari during an eight-year stint at Maranello, says that he has been hugely impressed with the way that Leclerc has settled in there.
And he thinks the qualities that the Monegasque driver have shown in only his second season of F1 point to him having what it takes to win the world title soon.
“He’s a very talented guy, but the thing that strikes me most is his head, and his ability to handle pressure,” Massa told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.
“I do not know whether he is faster or slower than Verstappen, but the seven pole positions in his first year of Ferrari say a lot. He made some mistakes, but I think we all have to consider his still limited experience in F1 and it was his first year in a top team.
“He is a future world champion, and I think we will not have to wait long. I do not exclude that he can achieve that goal even before Verstappen.”
Massa says that it is easy to underestimate the pressure that comes from racing for Ferrari, which is what has made Leclerc’s campaign even more impressive.
Asked how hard it is adjusting to life at Ferrari, Massa said: “You have to be ready in many respects. You must learn to handle the pressure of the media, the fans, and the one that you put on yourself when you realise that you drive for Ferrari.
“It is not a simple thing, and Charles has handled this aspect perfectly. He’s a good guy, and is more clever than he is given credit for.”
Felipe Massa, Venturi Formula E at the pit wall
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images