Felipe Massa’s team ready to ramp up legal action after delayed response

Oliver Harden
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’s legal representatives are threatening to take his case to the UK High Court having been left dismayed by a perceived slow response from F1 and the FIA in the face of his 2008 World Championship complaints.

Massa famously lost out on the 2008 title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton, with his discontent centered around that year’s controversial Singapore Grand Prix.

In an affair remembered as Crashgate, Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr. infamously crashed out to trigger a Safety Car that helped team-mate Fernando Alonso to victory.

Felipe Massa unimpressed by slow FIA, FOM response

Ferrari driver Massa, who had led the race from pole position until that point, saw his hopes disappear when he pulled away from his pit box with the fuel hose still attached to his car during the Safety Car period.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher.

The Brazilian was hit with a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release and ultimately finished a distant 13th, the lost points proving decisive at the dramatic title decider in Sao Paulo five weeks later.

Massa’s legal challenge was prompted by former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone’s revelation earlier this year that he was aware of the circumstances behind the Singapore GP in 2008 and that the race should have been annulled, with Massa claiming that losing the World Championship had cost him millions in income as well as “moral” and “reputational” damages.

On August 15th, Massa’s lawyers contacted both current F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem with a Letter Before Claim, establishing the details of his legal challenge and claiming Massa was “the victim of a conspiracy” in 2008 as both organisations sought to avoid a scandal.

Massa has received a response from both the FIA and Formula One Management to his original letter but has been left dismayed after being informed that it was impossible to provide a formal response when key personnel were away during F1’s annual summer break in August with more time required.

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Massa’s team have now responded to both parties, arguing that they do not consider a delay potentially as long as three months to be “reasonable” and have set a deadline of Friday September 8 for the matter to be dealt with to their satisfaction.

In further letters sent on August 29th, which have been seen by PlanetF1.com, his legal team say “It is clear that members of the legal team have been operating during the summer break.

“Work on a response should have begun promptly upon receipt of the Letter Before Claim and summer absences should not have prevented that.

“These are important claims which call into question the integrity of the sport as a whole. As such, they should be prioritised.”

The documents go on to state: “An open-ended timeframe for a response is not consistent with the Pre-Action Protocol. Please provide your response by 4 pm on 8 September 2023, failing which we anticipate being instructed to file claims in the UK High Court.”

Massa retired from F1 at the end of the 2017 season, having claimed 11 victories and 16 pole positions in 269 grand prix starts.

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