Felipe Massa has revealed that he is considering legal routes that may help him challenge the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship which he lost to Lewis Hamilton by one point.
Massa has been spurred on by recent comments from Bernie Ecclestone who offered insights into the infamous 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in which Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed to bring out a safety car and help then Renault teammate Fernando Alonso to victory.
The incident had a huge influence on the title battle as Massa dropped to 13th, while Hamilton managed to secure third.
Details about ‘Crashgate’ emerged publicly the following year with Renault handed a two-year suspended ban from F1 while team boss Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds were also disciplined for their roles in the incident.
At the time, Massa led calls for the FIA to cancel the result of the Singapore Grand Prix however the FIA’s International Sporting Code dictated that classification from each season is set in stone once the FIA Awards ceremony is completed.
In an interview with F1-Insider last month, Ecclestone admitted that the then FIA President, Max Mosley, was aware of the situation “during the 2008 season” and “decided not to do anything for now”.
“We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal. That’s why I used angelic tongues to persuade my former driver Nelson Piquet to keep calm for the time being,” Ecclestone said.
“Back then, there was a rule that a world championship classification after the FIA awards ceremony at the end of the year was untouchable. So Hamilton was presented with the trophy and everything was fine.
“We had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions.
“That means it would never have happened for the championship standings. And then Felipe Massa would have become world champion and not Lewis Hamilton.”
Now, Felipe Massa is considering whether there are legal grounds to take the matter further.
“There is a rule that says that when a championship is decided, from the moment the driver receives the champion’s trophy, things can no longer be changed, even if it has been proven a theft,” Massa told Motorsport.com.
“At the time, Ferrari’s lawyers told me about this rule. We went to other lawyers and the answer was that nothing could be done. So I logically believed in this situation.”
“But after 15 years, we hear that the [former] owner of the category says that he found out in 2008, together with the president of the FIA, and they did nothing [so as] to not tarnish the name of F1.
“This is very sad, to know the result of this race was supposed to be cancelled and I would have a title. In the end, I was the one who lost the most with this result. So, we are going after it to understand all this.”
Massa acknowledges that the chances of overturning the outcome are slim, but he insists that won’t prevent him from trying.
“There are rules, and there are many things that, depending on the country, you cannot go back after 15 years to resolve a situation,” he said.
“But 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.”
“I would never go after it thinking financially. I would go after it thinking about justice.
“I think if you’ve been punished for something that wasn’t your fault, and it’s the product of a robbery, a stolen race, justice has to be served.
“In fact, the right situation is to cancel the result of that race. It is the only justice that can be done in a case like this.”
“We have already seen other situations happening in sports, such as Lance Armstrong, who was proven to have doped, and he lost all the titles. What is the difference?”
The legal options for Massa are limited as the International Sporting Code does not allow protests after a race and any rights to request a review expire 14 days after the completion of a competition, and four days prior to the date of that year’s FIA’s prize-giving ceremony.
The FIA also notes that the highest authority to make any ruling is the independent International Court of Appeal, although it is through this structure that Mercedes abandoned their challenge over the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Speaking at the time, Toto Wolff said: “We believe we had a very strong case, and if you look at it from the legal side, if it would have been judged in a regular court you could almost guarantee that we would have won.
“But the problem with the ICA is the way it is structured. The FIA can’t really mark their own homework. And there is a difference between being right, and obtaining justice.”