Felipe Massa is going to press ahead with a legal challenge into the outcome of the 2008 World Championship, following comments from Bernie Ecclestone which suggested the title could, and perhaps should, rightfully be his.
The Brazilian lost out on title glory that year by the barest margin to Lewis Hamilton at a thrilling conclusion on home soil, with Hamilton passing Toyota driver Timo Glock at the final corner at Interlagos to give him the P5 finish he required to hold onto his World Championship lead.
But Massa, who won the Brazilian Grand Prix that day, was negatively impacted by the ‘Crashgate’ saga that unfolded at Singapore a couple of months beforehand, when it was later revealed that Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr had been instructed to crash out of the race to give team-mate Fernando Alonso a strategic helping hand by virtue of a ‘cheap’ pit stop under Safety Car conditions.
The two-time World Champion made the most of it on the day and took race victory while Massa toiled and lost places, including a frightening incident in the pit lane that saw him leave his pit box with his fuel hose still attached.
But former F1 supremo Ecclestone admitted earlier this year that he knew Renault had cheated prior to the investigation into the ‘Crashgate’ scandal – and tried to keep a lid on it for a time because of the understandable uproar it would cause in the sport.
“We decided not to do anything for now,” Ecclestone said to F1 Insider in March. “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.
“He was cheated out of the title he deserved while Hamilton had all the luck in the world and won his first championship. Today I would have arranged things differently.”
As a result, Massa has decided to look into his legal options surrounding the result of the 2008 World Championship, and recently confirmed he still plans to press ahead with action against the powers that be.
“[I decided to try to take it back] after that Bernie Ecclestone interview,” Massa told Brazilian publication Esportelândia.
“At the time, there was a law that said that when you went from one year to the next and gave the award to the driver and the team, the result couldn’t be changed.
“And Bernie Ecclestone said that he, the FIA president, in 2008, everybody knew about it and didn’t want to do anything so as not to scratch the name of Formula 1.
“So it shows that I was totally wronged by what happened that year in a stolen race. This made me raise the antennae and go after justice.
“I’m not a lawyer, but everybody knows I was clearly wronged and I think justice is part of our fight to get what happened in the right way.
“That was a stolen race. It was a manipulation, which is a very serious thing. It wasn’t just an engine that broke. There was also an engine that broke, but that is part of the game.”
When it comes to what kind of outcome could arise from legal proceedings, Massa is looking for the results of the Singapore Grand Prix to be voided outright.
With Hamilton having scored a podium on the day, the points removed would give the then-Ferrari driver the points he needs to become World Champion himself for 2008.
In speaking on the matter, he referenced McLaren’s ‘Spygate’ scandal from the year beforehand when it comes to how Formula 1 has acted to punish teams retrospectively in the past, with the team having been disqualified from the 2007 Constructors’ Championship as a result.
“[If you say about] a race manipulated for the result, like in this case that happened to me, no. What you had were other things,” Massa elaborated.
“Like in 2007, when McLaren took the design from Ferrari, copied the car and they were disqualified from the championship, they were punished for a situation.
“In this case , there was no punishment. In football and other sports many things happened where results were corrected.”