Ex-F1 driver tells Felipe Massa ‘there’s a time limit’ on Lewis Hamilton title dispute

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, next to Felipe Massa, Ferrari. China, October 2008.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, sits next to Felipe Massa, Ferrari, in a press conference. China, October 2008.

Felipe Massa should stop all talk of seeking legal action over the 2008 World title with former British F1 driver Tiff Needell saying it’s too late for that.

Massa lost the 2008 World title to Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren driver’s last lap of the season pass on Timo Glock at the Brazilian Grand Prix giving him the fifth place needed to pip race winner Massa by a single point.

Those feelings of disappointment were recently dredged up when former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone revealed that a race earlier in the season, one in which Massa failed to score while Hamilton was on the podium, should have been cancelled.

That’s because it was at the Singapore Grand Prix that Renault ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash to help his team-mate Fernando Alonso take the win.

Admitting F1 chiefs knew about the cheating scandal that season already, Ecclestone told F1 Insider: “We decided not to do anything, we wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal.

“According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions. That means it would never have happened for the World Championship standings. Then Felipe Massa would have become World Champion and not Lewis Hamilton.”

Massa is now considering legal action, although Needell says it’s too late for that.

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He told Express Sport: “You can’t cancel it now. From that race on people ran tactics from the points that were on the board.

“If he’d appealed for the race to be null and void but I guess they didn’t know it was deliberate.

“As soon as they had announced it, if they had put an appeal in then, then maybe. There’s a time limit.”

The knock-on effect of Piquet Jr’s crash

While one can understand Massa’s disbelief and pain over the situation, Needell is right in saying the crash and the outcome of that race had a knock-on effect.

In the immediate aftermath for Massa it led to a pit stop where Ferrari released him with the fuel hose attached his car and also into the path of another driver. That coupled with the 10-second penalty he received meant he finished down in 13th place.

It also had an impact on what came next, with both teams’ tactics in the final three races based on what they saw in the championship standings.

From contact between the two at the next race in Japan that dropped Hamilton to the back of the field, to an easy pass on Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps in China despite team orders being banned, to Hamilton’s pass on Glock in Brazil for P5, it all played a part in the story of the standings that had been created by Singapore.

Yes, Massa is right to feel he was one most harmed by Piquet Jr’s crash, but would taking the title away from Hamilton not just push the hurt onto Hamilton?