In an escalation of Felipe Massa’s proceedings against the FIA and Formula 1, his legal team have sent through preservation orders to several parties associated with the case.
2008 F1 World Championship Drivers’ runner-up Felipe Massa has kicked off a legal battle in the UK High Courts, seeking redress for the outcome of the 2008 World Championship in light of Renault’s manipulation of the race result in Singapore.
This weekend marks 15 years since the infamous events of ‘Crashgate’ at the Marina Bay venue, when then-Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jnr. crashed deliberately to bring out the Safety Car at the perfect moment to benefit Fernando Alonso’s victory chances – a win the Spaniard would go on to claim.
Why ‘Crashgate’ is relevant to Felipe Massa court battle
With the skulduggery of that particular race eventually coming to light when Piquet was fired by Renault boss Flavio Briatore less than a year later, an investigation by the FIA and the World Motor Sport Council would go on to reveal that most of the top brass at Renault were involved in the operation – with the exception of Alonso himself.
At an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in September 2009, the ING Renault F1 team admitted to conspiring with Piquet Jnr. to cause a deliberate crash.
“Renault F1 stated at the meeting that it had conducted a detailed internal investigation, which found that: (i) Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr had conspired to cause the crash; and (ii) no other team member was involved in the conspiracy,” read the FIA’s statement at the time.
“The World Motor Sport Council considers Renault F1’s breaches relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity.”
Earlier this year, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone admitted that he and then-FIA boss Max Mosley had been aware of Renault’s manipulation of the race before the end of 2008 – resetting the timeline to a much earlier point than what had been the accepted version of events.
“Max Mosley and I were informed during the 2008 season what had happened in the race in Singapore,” he recalled to F1 Insider in an interview dated 1st March.
“Piquet Junior had told his father Nelson that he had been asked by the team to drive into the wall at a certain point in order to trigger a Safety Car phase and such to help his team-mate Alonso.
“Piquet Junior was worried about his contract extension, so he was under a lot of pressure and agreed.
“We decided not to do anything for now. 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.”
While Ecclestone has since retracted those comments, claiming he doesn’t remember the interview, the interview sparked Felipe Massa’s interest. The Brazilian narrowly lost out in the Drivers’ Championship to Lewis Hamilton, in no small part due to missing out on a large points haul in Singapore as a result of a pitstop error made under Piquet’s triggered Safety Car.
Massa has since gone into detail about why he is engaging in legal action with both F1 and the FIA in a bid to have the result of the championship overturned in his favour, and instructed his legal team to file proceedings in the UK High Court on the 8th of September.
Ferrari, Flavio Briatore, and ING all given legal instruction
Massa’s legal team have now sent preservation notices on documentation to several associated parties in the case.
Ferrari, the team Massa raced with in 2008, have received such a notice, as have Alpine (the current iteration of the Renault F1 team).
Renault’s 2008 title sponsor ING, and former team boss Flavio Briatore are also named, as are F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds (Renault’s then-executive director of engineering) and FIA sporting director Steve Nielsen (then-sporting director at Renault).
The notices, which have been seen by PlanetF1.com, instruct all the parties that they have a duty to the court to ensure the preservation of any relevant documentation under their control that may be relevant to the proceedings.
A preservation notice is an instruction to ensure documentation is not deleted, destroyed, altered or annotated in any fashion.
Any and all documentation and information pertinent to the case, which could include sponsorship agreements, clauses, renewals, communications with FOM and the FIA about the events of 2008 and ’09, and any documentation regarding the investigation into Renault and the World Motor Sport Council’s reportage are also to be retained.
With Massa making it clear in recent interviews that he is seeking justice for his title loss, his legal team’s position is that nothing less than the Brazilian being declared 2008 World Champion is the outcome being sought.
In their view, F1’s awareness that the integrity of the 2008 championship had been sullied resulted in no action to either investigate the crash promptly before the end of ’08, nor made any effort to remediate the effects of the Singapore race.