Felipe Massa, the ex-Ferrari driver, asserted on Thursday his intention to “fight to the end” to be recognized as the 2008 Formula One world champion, a title currently held by Britain’s Lewis Hamilton. The Brazilian sportsman litigated against Formula One and FIA, the sport’s governing body, last week as per an exclusive report by Reuters. The claim aimed to seek significant reparations stemming from an alleged “conspiracy” that kept him from the championship.
“We’re going to fight to get the title,” declared Massa during a sit-down with Brazilian outlet GE. He further emphasized that his legal battle is driven by more than just seeking financial restitution. “I’m here to make it clear things didn’t happen fairly,” he insisted.
Massa, who bowed out of professional racing in 2017, had been in the lead at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. However, when fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. intentionally crashed his Renault into the wall on lap 14 out of the 61-lap race, Massa’s fortunes took a turn. Piquet Jr.’s mishap summoned a safety car, an advantage that set-up his teammate Fernando Alonso for a win, and led to Massa failing to tally any points following a botched pitstop.
Lewis Hamilton, Racing for McLaren at the time and an adopted Brazilian citizen, inched past Massa by a single point to secure the first of his record-matching seven championships. Massa’s ex-Ferrari collaborator and close friend, the legend Michael Schumacher, is the only other driver to have shared the same glory.
A rule in place at the Formula One at the time stipulated that a season’s championship result could not be altered after the end of season awards ceremony. However, Massa sought legal counsel this year, following a statement made by ex-F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to a German website in March. Ecclestone claimed that he and former FIA president Max Mosley had knowledge in 2008 that Piquet had deliberately crashed but did nothing about it.
“I have nothing against Hamilton. This battle is about a race that was rigged,” informed Massa and expressed his ideal outcome- to be named 2008 champion and the cancellation of the Singapore race, which he believed was manipulated. “That world title was ours, and it was taken away by manipulation.”
Ecclestone, now 92, confessed last week he couldn’t recall ever uttering the quotes attributed to him. Mosley, Ecclestone’s long-time associate, passed away in 2021, while Charlie Whiting, another central figure in the controversy, died in 2019.
It came to light in 2009 when Piquet unveiled he had been instructed to crash by Renault team leaders, an infraction which led to their subsequent ban. “I think it’s important for us to fight to get the justice of the sport,” asserted Massa, who didn’t clinch another race following the 2008 season and sustained a severe head injury in Hungary in 2009. “We fight for the title, and that’s our fight where we go to the end.”
When asked about the controversy, Hamilton, currently in the heat of helping Mercedes in their championship quest, chose to keep his focus on the present. “I’m not really focused on what happened 15 years ago,” said the English motor racer.