Felipe Massa Considers Legal Action Over 2008 F1 Championship

A dodgy race result cost Massa a World Championship, and he’s just learned that those in charge knew at the time.

byLewin Day|
F1 photo

The 2008 Formula 1 World Championship was a heartbreaker for Felipe Massa. After crossing the line at the final race, he was told he'd won the title, only for Lewis Hamilton to wrest it from his grasp seconds later. Massa lost the title by just one point, and now, 15 years later, he's thinking about taking action.

As reported by Motorsport.com, Massa is considering a legal challenge to overturn the result of the 2008 F1 World Championship. His concerns center around the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. In an event widely known as "Crashgate," Nelson Piquet Jr. was instructed to crash to bring out a safety car to help Fernando Alonso's race. The incident ruined Massa's race, and he finished 13th, well outside the points.

Crashgate first came to public attention in 2009 shortly after Renault dropped Nelson Piquet Jr as a driver. The deliberate act saw the FIA hand down a two-year suspended ban for the Renault F1 team. Team head Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds were also sanctioned for their roles in the matter. When all was revealed, Massa called for the FIA to strike the race from the record, which would award him the 2008 championship on points. However, due to FIA rules, the championship could not be overturned after the FIA Awards ceremony had taken place.

However, new comments from Bernie Ecclestone have revived Massa's interest in challenging the results. The former F1 supremo recently claimed to F1 Insider that he was aware of the Crashgate incident during the 2008 season, along with FIA President Max Mosley. According to Ecclestone, the matter was kept under wraps at the time to avoid a damaging scandal. "We had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the statutes, we should have canceled the race in Singapore under these conditions," said Ecclestone. He noted that had the race been scratched from the record, Massa would have been World Champion.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Massa noted that in 2009, Ferrari's lawyers investigated the matter. At that time, they found FIA rules meant the championship could not be challenged after the awards ceremony. "But after 15 years, we hear that the [ex] owner of the category says that he found out in 2008, together with the president of the FIA, and they did nothing, to not tarnish the name of F1," said Massa.

The Brazilian driver is eager to set the record straight, even if he believes it's a long shot. "I intend to study the situation; study what the laws say, and the rules. We have to have an idea of what is possible to do," Massa told Motorsport.com. Acknowledging that many jurisdictions wouldn't allow any action 15 years after the fact, he nonetheless hopes that "justice" will see the result overturned.

Massa is yet to speak with his former team over the matter. Whether Ferrari would support such a challenge is unclear; The Drive has reached out for comment and will update accordingly.

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Overall, the FIA has proved reluctant to rectify even the most obvious and egregious championship results in recent years. It's hard to imagine the organization willingly engaging with Massa in this regard. Whether the Brazilian can make something happen in the courts is another matter, but one suspects the broader consensus will be that sleeping dogs are best left to lie.

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