Giancarlo Fisichella has paid an emotional tribute to former rival Michael Schumacher, saying the German great "rewrote the history of Formula 1". Fisichella was part of the Renault team led by Fernando Alonso that dethroned Schumacher and Ferrari in the mid-2000s.
Schumacher's condition remains mostly a mystery after he suffered traumatic brain injuries in a skiing accident in 2013.
The seven-time world champion is recovering at his home in Switzerland and has not been seen publicly since the accident.
Fisichella went toe to toe with Schumacher in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, before joining Ferrari in 2009 to replace the injured Felipe Massa while Schumacher was an advisor at the team – and had been expected to replace the Brazilian, only for a neck injury to deny him.
Fisichella told Rai: "We were friends. He was a great football fan and we regularly kicked a ball together.
"As a colleague he was an incredible opponent, he rewrote the history of Formula 1.
"Having raced with him has given me so much, and the few times I came in front made me even more proud because he is a great champion.
"It is a cruel fate that someone who as a racer so often risked his life is badly injured while skiing.
"I would like to embrace him and talk to him. I would tell him how well his son Mick is developing, that he is winning races and will maybe be world champion one day like his father.
"I hope from the bottom of my heart that he can live a normal life again. Nobody knows what to tell me about his condition and that makes me very sad."