Former Scuderia Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has confirmed that he wants to look into the possibility of taking any legal action which could allow him to challenge the events that took place in the 2008 Formula 1 season, when the Brazilian lost the title against Lewis Hamilton.
Felipe Massa has been been determined to take action after some recent statements made by British business magnate Bernie Ecclestone, the former chief executive of the Formula One Group, who provided more details about the events that took place in the 2008 F1 Singapore Grand Prix: the race at the newly built Marina Bay Street Circuit proved hugely costly to Felipes title chances that season.
The 2008 Singapore event is mostly remembered for the deliberate crash from Nelson Piquet Jr., that led to the Safety Car being deployed. The move was decisive for his Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso to go on and win the race.
The controversy also directly affected the championship duel, as the safety car moment led to a Ferrari pitstop that went wrong for Felipe Massa: the Maranello team’s crew error meant the Brazilian, who was leading the race, finished outside the points, while his title rival Lewis Hamilton ended up third, scoring some points which at the end of the season proved crucial.
The results in the Singapore Grand Prix arguably played a decisive role in the final standings of the 2008 Formula 1 season, given the fact that the McLaren man won the title with just one point ahead of Felipe Massa in the standings at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Some details about Nelson Piquet Jr’s intentional move emerged in public one year later and they led to Renault facing a two-year suspended ban from the sport, while then team principal Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds were also punished for their part in the events.
Even back then, the Ferrari driver pointed out that the FIA should not take into consideration the result of the Singapore race, but the governing body’s regulation did not allow for the classification from each season to be changed under the International Sporting Code once the FIA Awards ceremony took place.
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At the same time, the FIA’s investigation into what happened at the Marina Bay Street Circuit concluded that there was no clear proof to state that Fernando Alonso or other Renault team members were aware of the crash plan or were involved in any way. As a result the governing body believed it would not have been correct to change the result.
Yet Felipe Massa is confident there are now grounds to evaluate the outcome taking into consideration the recent statements made by Bernie Ecclestone who suggested that he and the FIA knew about the rules breach even ahead of the final round of the championship, which means it was within the time when action could have been taken to change the Singapore Grand Prix results.
During an interview for the F1-Insider website which took place a few weeks ago, Bernie Ecclestone explained that he and then FIA president Max Mosley were very much aware of the situation “during the 2008 season.”
He stated: “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. 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.” – Bernie Ecclestone added.
Those comments have drawn interest from the former Ferrari driver, who confirmed that he intends to pursue this matter and evaluate whether or not there are legal grounds now to take the issue further in legal channels.
In a recent interview during the Stock Car Pro Series weekend in Goiania, Felipe Massa confirmed that “there is a rule that says that when a championship is decided, from the moment the driver receives the champion’s trophy, things can no longer be changed, even if it has been proven a theft. At the time, Ferrari’s lawyers told me about this rule. We went to other lawyers and the answer was that nothing could be done. So I logically believed in this situation.” – he added.
“But after 15 years, we hear that the [former] owner of the category says that he found out in 2008, together with the president of the FIA, and they did nothing [so as] to not tarnish the name of Formula 1. This is very sad, to know the result of this race was supposed to be cancelled and I would have a title. In the end, I was the one who lost the most with this result. So, we are going after it to understand all this.” – the Brazilian explained.
Felipe Massa is aware that his prospects of opening any legal action on this matter are very small, but he pointed out that this will not stop him from looking into it.
“There are rules, and there are many things that, depending on the country, you cannot go back after 15 years to resolve a situation,” he said. But I intend to study the situation; study what the laws say, and the rules. We have to have an idea of what is possible to do.”
The former Ferrari driver also wanted to point out that his goal to pursue this issue is not linked to any attempt to gain a possible financial compensation.
“I would never go after it thinking financially. I would go after it thinking about justice. I think if you’ve been punished for something that wasn’t your fault, and it’s the product of a robbery, a stolen race, justice has to be served. In fact, the right situation is to cancel the result of that race. It is the only justice that can be done in a case like this.” – he added.
The Brazilian also explained that there is nothing strange to change the results several years after the competition took place when clear new evidence of cheating is presented, as happened in other sports: “We have already seen other situations happening in sports, such as Lance Armstrong (cyclist), who was proven to have doped, and he lost all the titles. What is the difference?”
When asked if he had spoken to his former Ferrari team about this possibility, Felipe Massa confirmed that he has not yet discussed the matter with the Italian side.