Felipe Massa moves forward with legal team over possible 2008 F1 title review

Henry Valantine
Felipe Massa wears a mask. Jeddah December 2021.

Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa wears a mask while in the paddock. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Felipe Massa has reportedly assembled a legal team to assess whether or not a challenge into the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship is viable.

Massa spoke earlier in April about exploring his options in this regard, and Motorsport.com have now reported an update to Massa’s situation, in that he is now said to have brought a legal team together to look into whether or not a legal challenge to the outcome of the championship would be viable, 15 years following the season’s conclusion.

This all comes following recent comments from former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone surrounding the infamous ‘Crashgate’ saga from that season’s Singapore Grand Prix, when it emerged that Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr was told to crash from the lead of the race to benefit team-mate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race.

An investigation eventually found Renault guilty of trying to bring the race into Alonso’s favour by making Piquet crash, but in an interview with F1-Insider in March, Ecclestone revealed that he and the FIA had known about the ramifications of the incident during the 2008 season, and that he had wanted to protect the sport’s reputation while the title battle was ongoing between Massa and Lewis Hamilton.

“We decided not to do anything for now,” Ecclestone said. “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.

“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.”

Massa eventually lost out to Hamilton by the smallest possible margin come the end of the season, with the ex-McLaren driver’s pass on Timo Glock at the final corner at Interlagos giving him the point he needed to stay ahead of the Brazilian at the end of the year.

Speaking to Motorsport.com several weeks ago when presented with Ecclestone’s comments, Massa said he was looking into the options available – feeling that such an admission gave him grounds for a possible appeal, given how close he came to title success that season.

“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,” the then-Ferrari driver said.

“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.

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“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.

“There are rules, and there are many things that, depending on the country, you cannot go back after 15 years to resolve a situation.

“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.”

On the face of it, Massa’s options appear to be thin on a legal basis, with the FIA not under the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] on issues not related to anti-doping.

Elsewhere, the FIA’s own International Sporting Code states a request to a right of review must be placed within 14 calendar days of an event and four days prior to the FIA’s end-of-year prize-giving ceremony – with the independent International Court of Appeal being the highest court recognised in motorsport.