This April, Felipe Massa stated his plans of pursuing legal action to contest the 2008 F1 world championship outcome, which saw him lose to McLaren‘s Lewis Hamilton by a point. The former F1 head, Bernie Ecclestone, had earlier indicated that information concerning the much-debated 2008 Singapore GP ‘crashgate’ had been available sufficiently early to warrant action before the championship’s conclusion was declared.
Ecclestone was interviewed in March and quoted by F1-insider asserting that the Singapore Grand Prix outcome, where fellow racer Nelson Piquet Jr intentionally crashed his car to assist Renault teammate Fernando Alonso win, potentially could have seen disqualification. Such a development would have turned the championship tide in favor of the Ferrari driver -Massa. However, the entire episode was formally scrutinized in the following year, making it impossible to amend the championship or race outcome.
Massa, having gotten his legal team ready, has sent a so-called Letter Before Claim to both the FIA and FOM; this outlines the specifics of the case he plans to take to court. As per the accessed document by F1 Initiative, Massa’s defense argues that he was “the victim of a conspiracy,” accusing the FIA and FOM of intentionally failing to act even after becoming cognizant of the case.
The letter is addressed to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, alleging that an agenda to “avoid a scandal” by these two bodies resulted in the 42-year-old Brazilian suffering financial losses amounting to tens of millions of euros.
“Simply put, Mr Massa is the rightful 2008 Drivers’ Champion, and F1 and FIA deliberately ignored the misconduct that cheated him out of that title,” the letter alleges emphasis. It further points out that although “Mr Massa is unable to fully quantify his losses at this stage,” it is estimated to be “likely to exceed tens of millions of Euros,” failing to take into account the severe moral and reputational damages experienced by Massa.
Interestingly, Ecclestone now says he has no recollection of the interview that spurred Massa’s legal actions, adding that Massa or his legal representation has not reached out to him to corroborate his comments. “I don’t remember any of this, to be honest,” the 92-year-old told Reuters. “I don’t remember giving the interview for sure.”
Although it is unclear whether Massa’s team can viably challenge the championship result from 15 years ago, the possibility seems slim. The FIA‘s own International Sporting Code prohibits protests after a race, and any window to request a review lasts only 14 calendar days after a race – ending four days before the FIA‘s annual prize-giving ceremony.
While Massa could explore the views of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it lacks the jurisdiction over the FIA on this matter. Only issues pertaining to the FIA‘s Anti-Doping Disciplinary Committee can involve the CAS as per the FIA‘s statutes. At the time of this report, the FIA have yet to comment when approached by F1 Initiative.