Felipe Massa blasted for ‘ridiculous’ F1 2008 title case: ‘He just wants a wedge of wonga’

Oliver Harden
An emotional Felipe Massa on the podium at the 2008 Brazilian GP with a prominent Ferrari badge alongside him

Felipe Massa cut a highly emotional figure on the Interlagos podium after losing the F1 2008 title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton

Former McLaren communications director Matt Bishop has criticised Felipe Massa’s “ridiculous” legal challenge over the F1 2008 World Championship, claiming the ex-Ferrari star “just wants a wedge of wonga.”

It emerged on Monday that Massa had commenced legal proceedings against Formula 1, its governing body the FIA and former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone over the outcome of the 2008 World Championship

Felipe Massa out ‘for a few bob’ with F1 2008 legal challenge

The Brazilian missed out on the title by a single point to McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who claimed the first of his joint-record seven titles in highly dramatic circumstances at the final race at Interlagos.

Massa’s challenge centres on the events of that year’s Singapore Grand Prix, where the Renault team ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to crash deliberately to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race in an affair known as Crashgate.

Massa had comfortably led the race from pole position until the moment of Piquet Jr’s crash, but finished 13th after the balance of the race was turned upside down by a Safety Car, with the lost points costing him dearly at the title decider five weeks later in his hometown of Sao Paulo.

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Appearing on talkSPORT radio, Bishop, who worked for McLaren between 2008 and 2017, has blasted Massa’s legal action as “ridiculous” – and believes the 42-year-old is just looking for a “wedge of wonga.”

Asked for his thoughts on the “remarkable” situation, Bishop – who conceded that the Singapore race “was manipulated in an unfair way” with some within F1 at the time left with the sense that Piquet Jr’s crash “looked a bit iffy” – said: “‘Remarkable’ is one word for it, ‘ridiculous’ perhaps another.

“I know Felipe Massa. He’s a fine driver, and is a nice guy.

“But my view – and this is my speculation, I’m not speaking from absolute certain knowledge – I think somebody’s got their shovel under him and has said: ‘We can do something for you here, we can earn you a lot of money.’

“And, of course, what they really want to do is earn themselves a lot of money, probably lawyers.

“This happened 16 years ago, Lewis Hamilton won his first World Championship. It seems ludicrous.

“There’s usually a tradition in Formula 1 that you can appeal a result within two hours. Two hours, not 16 years. We’re now 16 years later.

“My suspicion is he doesn’t really think he’s going to overturn the result and be declared World Champion, he just wants a wedge of wonga.

“I just don’t think that the FIA, the governing body of the sport, is going to look at this.

“The two key witnesses, who were in charge of the FIA and therefore the governance of racing at that time and including that race in 2008, they’re both dead – [FIA president] Max Mosley and [race director] Charlie Whiting – so you can’t call them and ask them for their evidence.

“It is too long ago. Where are we going to draw the line?

“Some people say that Graham Hill didn’t win the 1966 Indianapolis 500 correctly and it should have been won by Jim Clark.

“Are German football fans going to have another look at the 1966 World Cup Final?”

“What we’re doing is retrospectively going back through results. And if we do it, where does it all end?

F1’s rules allow teams to appeal against the results of a race within two hours of the chequered flag, with the World Champion officially declared at the FIA’s annual end-of-season prize-giving ceremony.

Asked if the law could trump F1’s own rules in this case, Bishop replied: “It is unarguable.

“Yes, the law is obviously the highest authority in anything, but it is extremely rare that courts decide to actually alter the referee’s decision or the governing body’s decision.

“It has been tested in various sports over the years – including Formula 1 – where this kind of thing has been mooted or questioned and in the end, it’s been abandoned.”

Bishop recalled a conversation with Massa towards the end of the 2012 season, in which the then-Ferrari driver revealed he had made peace with the outcome of the 2008 season – and he reiterated his view that Massa’s change of heart is driven by financial reasons

He said: “He’s a great guy. I remember sitting on a plane next to him in 2012 – so four years after the event – and I just happened to be sitting next to him on the way to the Japanese Grand Prix.

“I was still working with McLaren, he was still working for Ferrari and he spoke about it and he was very impressive.

“He said: ‘It was a great shame for me, it was upsetting. I was so excited about winning the World Championship in my own home country, my own hometown, but I’ve accepted it. I’ve taken it.

“‘And at least I won the race. So I know I did everything I possibly could to win the Championship that day, so that’s how I’ve managed to cope with it in my own psyche.’

“But now we’re talking 16 years later, he’s changed his tune and I think either somebody has said, ‘Here’s a way of getting $100million’ – which is a very tempting inducement – or someone’s got him another way.

“But I would say that he doesn’t expect to change the result, but he does expect and hope for a few bob.”

Read next: Bernie Ecclestone responds after Felipe Massa files lawsuit against him, F1 and FIA