Mar.29 (GMM/ Luca di Montezemolo has offered Felipe Massa some cautious backing.

The struggling driver was summoned to Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters this week rather than travel home to Brazil to see his young family.

But team boss Stefano Domenicali said the 30-year-old retains Ferrari’s full backing, despite two sub-standard performances in Australia and Malaysia and widespread calls within the media for his dismissal.

Germany’s SID news agency quotes Ferrari president Montezemolo as saying: “We have great confidence in Massa.

“And at the moment I don’t see many outstanding drivers out there,” he added.

The implication could be that an “outstanding” driver might be a candidate to replace Massa either now or in the future.

The cream of Ferrari’s own driver development academy, Sergio Perez, sensationally finished second behind Fernando Alonso last weekend in Malaysia, with Massa fifteenth.

Brazilian former driver and now commentator Luciano Burti traces Massa’s decline all the way back to Hockenheim 2010, when on the one-year anniversary of his near-fatal crash he was told by his engineer: “Fernando is faster than you”.

“When that order came, his house fell around him,” Burti told Brazil’s Globo.

Soon after that, Alonso was – and still is – the darling of Ferrari, while one of Massa’s strongest supporters, the O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio, now believes the Brazilian is little more than the “test driver” for new components.