Using the word “manipulation” to describe his 2008 title defeat, Felipe Massa has declared “I won” the championship and that it’s now up to F1 and the FIA to put it to rights.
Last week news broke that Massa was pressing ahead with legal action against Formula 1 and the FIA, starting with a formal Letter Before Claim notice that had been sent to both parties seeking compensation having lost out on millions after being denied the 2008 Drivers’ title.
The Brazilian’s claim relates to that year’s Singapore Grand Prix and the ‘Crashgate’ scandal with Renault found guilty of deliberately ordering Nelson Piquet Jr to crash to benefit his teammate Fernando Alonso.
Felipe Massa: They really understand that it was manipulation
In the pit stops that followed, Massa went from leading the race to leaving the pit lane with his fuel hose still attached to his Ferrari. He finished outside of the points while his title rival Lewis Hamilton was third. The Briton would go on to win the title by a single point.
“Simply put, Mr Massa is the rightful 2008 Driver’s Champion, and F1 and FIA deliberately ignored the misconduct that cheated him out of that title,” his legal letter read.
Massa has called the result “manipulated”.
“This is what we are fighting for. This is (why) we get together a group of lawyers to fight because this is the correct thing to do,” he told The Athletic.
“We are pretty confident (in) the situation. We will fight them to the end because it was not correct. It was not fair for the sport, what’s happened.”
The former Ferrari driver went on to state that Renault’s punishment, a two-year suspended disqualification with team boss Flavio Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds banned for five years, both bans later overturned, wasn’t a punishment at all.
“The punishment was no punishment,” Massa said. “Nobody paid for that. For me, this is — sorry for the word — but it is bulls***.”
Pressed as to what he hopes to achieve, having the 2008 championship result retroactively changed or if he wants monetary compensation, Massa replied: “They really understand that it was manipulation. They really understand that it was a race, it happened – a very serious situation like corruption, like manipulation — that is not the correct thing for the sport.
“I really hope they look back, and they fix what was not fair for the sport and for the people.”
He added: “I won it, so I need to get the confirmation that that is exactly what’s happened in the correct way.”
Felipe Massa scoffs at Bernie Ecclestone’s forgetfulness
Massa’s decision to pursue legal action came in the wake of former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s interview with F1-Insider in which he reportedly admitted both he and FIA president Max Mosley knew about ‘Crashgate’ even before it came to light a year later.
“Max Mosley and I were informed during the 2008 season of what had happened in the race in Singapore,” he said, adding that “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 World Cup standings. Then Felipe Massa would have become World Champion and not Lewis Hamilton.
“He was cheated of the title he deserved.”
The 92-year-old has since denied giving the interview, telling Reuters: “I don’t remember any of this, to be honest. I don’t remember giving the interview for sure.”
Massa, though, believes Ecclestone “remembers so much well, all of the answers he was doing on that interview, so this is not important for me anymore.”
He added: “After 15 years, you hear that people knew (and) they didn’t want it to do anything not to destroy Formula One’s name because it was a very serious situation, like Crashgate. So then, it was a big shock.”
Lewis Hamilton brushes off question over Felipe Massa 2008 title legal claim
Hamilton was quizzed on the situation and whether or not he felt any sympathy toward Massa given how the championship, including his last-lap-of-the-season pass on Timo Glock that gave him the point needed to beat the Brazilian, played out.
He told the media including PlanetF1.com: “I’m really just focused on the here and now.
“[I’m] helping a team get back in the championship race and am not really focused on what happened 15 years ago.”
As for the FIA, they told The Athletic that “the matter is under review and we will not be providing comment at this stage.”