Felipe Massa’s legal team offer intriguing update on 2008 F1 title court challenge

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Felipe Massa pulls on his overalls at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa pulls on his overalls at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.

The legal team representing Felipe Massa’s challenge of the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship has offered an update.

Last month, Felipe Massa kicked off a legal battle in the UK High Court, challenging the outcome of the 2008 F1 Drivers’ Championship in which the Brazilian driver finished as runner-up to Lewis Hamilton.

The events of ‘Crashgate’ at that year’s Singapore Grand Prix are well-documented, with the Renault F1 team’s manipulation of the race result at Marina Bay forming the basis for Massa’s legal bid.

Felipe Massa lawyers offer update on legal case

With Felipe Massa instructing his legal team to begin proceedings, having given the FIA and FOM a ‘Letter Before Claim’ during this year’s summer break, preservation orders were sent to the parties associated with the case: Ferrari, Alpine (Renault), ING, former team boss Flavio Briatore, as well as F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds (Renault’s then-executive director of engineering) and FIA sporting director Steve Nielsen (then-sporting director at Renault).

Massa’s legal team told PlanetF1.com that a request from the FIA & FOM to delay proceedings has been agreed to.

“FIA and FOM are completing an internal investigation,” Bernardo Viana said.

“They have requested one last extension to the deadline they initially asked for, from October 12th to November 15th.

“We have agreed to this final period because, if the new administration is indeed looking into the matter in good faith, they will certainly reach the same conclusion we and so many people around the world have.

“We would like to know what Formula 1’s new leadership’s position is on the recently disclosed scandal and the injustice faced by Felipe Massa.”

The Brazilian driver, who has not been in the F1 paddock since he announced the commencement of his legal challenge, told Motorsport Brazil that he feels he has support, but labelled it a “very complicated situation”.

“People sometimes don’t like to talk about it,” he said.

“They prefer to talk about it up close, rather than in the media, which I completely understand. But this definitely doesn’t change anything in my fight for justice.

I don’t see why Ferrari wouldn’t be on my side … Because we lost the championship, they took the championship away from us, from me and from Ferrari.

“When you hear Toto Wolff talking about 2021, Ferrari would need to do the same. So, Ferrari needs to fight for the best of the team and I don’t really see Ferrari far from manipulation, as happened to me.

“So at this point, they haven’t really said, ‘OK, we’re together.’ I think they’re waiting to see what’s going to happen, but what I’m saying is I’m doing this for my country, I’m doing this for my fans, I’m doing this for myself, I’m doing this for my family, I’m doing this for Ferrari, I’m doing this for the fans, the most incredible F1 fans, who are the Ferrari fans.

“So if Ferrari wants to come in, they are totally welcome. Otherwise, I’m doing this for justice and that’s the most important thing to me.”

Why did Felipe Massa kick off a legal challenge 15 years on from title defeat?

In March 2023, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone – who pleaded guilty to tax fraud in London this week – admitted that he and then-FIA boss Max Mosley had been aware of Renault’s manipulation of the race before the end of 2008 – resetting the timeline to a much earlier point than what had been the accepted version of events.

“Max Mosley and I were informed during the 2008 season what had happened in the race in Singapore,” he recalled to F1 Insider in an interview dated 1st March.

“[Nelson] Piquet Junior had told his father Nelson that he had been asked by the team to drive into the wall at a certain point in order to trigger a Safety Car phase and such to help his team-mate Alonso.

“Piquet Junior was worried about his contract extension, so he was under a lot of pressure and agreed.

“We 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.”

While Ecclestone has since retracted those comments, claiming he doesn’t remember the interview, the interview sparked Felipe Massa’s interest. The Brazilian narrowly lost out in the Drivers’ Championship to Lewis Hamilton, in no small part due to missing out on a large points haul in Singapore as a result of a pitstop error made under Piquet’s triggered Safety Car.

Massa has since gone into detail about why he is engaging in legal action with both F1 and the FIA in a bid to have the result of the championship overturned in his favour, and instructed his legal team to file proceedings in the UK High Court on the 8th of September.

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