Brazilian Formula 1 driver, Massa, has recently initiated a legal process with the motive of changing the results of the 2008 F1 championship. Massa alleges that he lost the proposal due to a conspiracy, rooted from the Crashgate scandal which occurred during the Singapore Grand Prix the same year. He is convinced that this controversy, which he opines FIA and F1 officials intentionally withheld, prevented him from clinching the championship title.
Believing strongly that the concealed events damaged his professional reputation and led to decreased earnings, Massa and his team sought to address this issue legally. They addressed their grievances to the FIA and F1 in a preceding legal correspondence, challenging the eventual result of the 2008 championship, which saw Lewis Hamilton emerge as the year’s champion.
Massa’s lawyer, Bernardo Viana, is quoted saying: “The objective is to bring the trophy home. It’s not financial. To get there, several measures will be taken with different aims, some to obtain information and others to obtain statements” further adding that “We want everything that happened in 2008/2009 to come to light.”
The decision by Massa to legally contest a championship dispute has sparked conversations on whether a potential resolution in favour of him could set a precedent for disputing other contentious decisions made by the FIA. Some opinions suggest this could even swing open the doors for a reconsideration of the 2021 championship.
This was a championship that was significantly influenced by a controversial occurrence in the Abu Dhabi round where Max Verstappen, due to the FIA‘s direction on a late safety car restart, managed to snatch the championship title from Lewis Hamilton in the last lap. Responding to these conjectures at the Singapore Grand Prix, Toto Wolff, the boss of the Mercedes team, expressed his interest in the outcomes of the Massa case due to the possible legal precedent that might be set.
“Well, interesting… interesting to follow,” Wolff mentioned when asked about his thoughts on the issue by F1 Initiative. “[It’s] clearly not something that anybody saw coming. The rules are pretty clear in Formula 1. It’s a civil case behind it. It would certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. We’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity,” he added.
Following up on whether this could potentially lead to a dispute on the 2021 championship results, Wolff reiterated his interest in monitoring the developments, citing that the FIA had already released a clear statement on the matter. He was alluding to the FIA‘s admittance that they made mistakes in managing the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Back in March 2022, following an FIA‘s World Motor Sport Council meeting, an official statement admitted to errors. “The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error led [sic] to the fact that not all cars were allowed to unlap themselves,” the FIA conceded.
Currently, the FIA‘s statutes establish that the highest authority with the power to rule on such issues is the independent International Court of Appeal. This verdict requires all persons involved in a championship to adhere to this directive. However, should Massa’s legal action establish that FIA‘s rulings can be legally contested outside the association’s jurisdiction, it could open paths for Mercedes to further review the contentious 2021 Abu Dhabi events. Mercedes had previously opted out of an official appeal, deeming little benefit from doing so.