Felipe Massa assessing legal options to dispute Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 title win

Sam Cooper
Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton at the pre race photo call for the 2008 finale. Brazil November 2008

Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton at the pre race photo call for the 2008 finale. Brazil November 2008

Felpie Massa said he is exploring options to dispute the 2008 World Championship loss to Lewis Hamilton after Bernie Ecclestone revealed new information.

The incident refers back to the infamous ‘Crashgate’ affair in which it later emerged that Nelson Piquet Jr had deliberately crashed during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Alonso pleaded ignorance but Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were both handed bans while Renault were given a suspended sentence of disqualification from the World Championship.

While the affair left a stain on Formula 1 and in particular Renault, it had far reaching wider impacts with Massa arguably losing out on a maiden title win due to the race.

In Singapore, Massa pitted following the Safety Car but a poorly executed stop by his Ferrari team saw him re-emerge in 13th, 10 places behind championship rival Hamilton.

There was a six-point swing on the day, giving Hamilton a healthy lead at the top of the table, and considering Massa would eventually lose out on the championship by a single point, he had every right to feel aggrieved.

He complained at the time but as Renault’s crimes were not fully revealed until a year after, the FIA stated that nothing could be changed due to a rule that said once the prize giving ceremony had taken place, results were set in stone.

That was the way it looked like the story would end, until one Bernie Ecclestone let slip a new piece of evidence. Speaking to F1-Insider last month, then owner Ecclestone said he and then FIA president Max Mosley knew about the situation during the 2008 season.

“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.”

This, Massa believes, has given him fresh grounds to appeal. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Massa said he was exploring legal options to overturn the result.

“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 former 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.

“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.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Aus GP stewards call for review after contrasting Mercedes pace almost led to a pile-up

Toto Wolff on Hamilton v Verstappen and Red Bull’s ‘mind-boggling’ speed

Ex-Ferrari engineer on Red Bull’s ‘weird’ change of tune from Abu Dhabi 2021 to Australia 2023

Overturning a result a year later let alone 15 years after the event would be a historic moment in F1 history, but not sporting history and Massa raised the example of Lance Armstrong as a precedent.

After admitting to doping, the cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life for doping.

“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?”

“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.”

Speaking to Corriere dello Sport last month, Massa revealed he spoke to Ferrari’s lawyers at the time.

“I’ve always said it: it’s unacceptable,” the Brazilian said.

“After hearing about the case, a year later when Piquet Jnr went to tell about it, I spoke about it with Ferrari and with the Maranello lawyers. They told me there was nothing they could do, that there was no chance of winning.

“But I have always thought, and I still think today, that if I had hired lawyers on my own and had brought forward a case on my own, the outcome would have been different. Bernie should have said it earlier, not now.”