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Massa sues F1, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone

NEWS STORY
17/03/2024

Felipe Massa has launched a 65m lawsuit against F1, the FIA and the sport's former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone over the outcome of the 2008 title.

The Brazilian is demanding 65m ($82m) which he claims is the financial loss he suffered as a result of being denied the title.

As previously reported, the lawsuit refers to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix which, it subsequently turned out, had been 'fixed' in the incident that came to be known as 'Crashgate', whereby Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashed in a bid to aid his teammate, Fernando Alonso.

While Piquet and his team were subsequently punished the result of the race stood, which was bad news for Massa as he finished 13th following a disastrous pit stop made during the Safety Car period that followed the Renault driver's crash. Prior to the crash Massa had been leading.

Fast forward to the season finale, and in one of the most memorable conclusions to a season - Abu Dhabi 2021 aside - Massa looked to have won the title until Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap to claim fifth and thereby the title.

It was the following summer when the 'Crashgate' scandal broke, however, last year former F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone reportedly told the German website F1 Insider that Massa had been "deprived of the title he deserved" as there had been sufficient evidence at the time to suggest the crash had been deliberate and warranted an investigation and thereby the disqualification of the Renault team from the result. However, the Briton later claimed to have no recollection of the interview and denied making the comments.

"Attempts to resolve the matter amicably have not been successful so far, leaving, therefore, no alternative but to take the issue to court," Said Massa's Brazilian law firm, Vieira Rezende Advogados, in a statement.

"Recent events highlight the continued relevance of issues of transparency and integrity in Formula One, and it is clear that serious work is needed to restore its credibility and secure its long-term future."

The "recent events" mentioned in the statement no doubt refer to the recent claims by a whistle-blower - a former FIA employee now working for Formula One Management - that the governing body's current president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, sought to interfere in the result of last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and allegedly also urged officials not to certify the Las Vegas street track just days before the event.

"Mr Massa is seeking declarations that the FIA breached its regulations by failing to promptly investigate Nelson Piquet Junior's crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix and that had it acted properly," read the law firm's statement, "Mr Massa would have won the drivers' championship that year.

"Mr Massa also seeks damages for the significant financial loss he has suffered due to the FIA's failure, in which Mr Ecclestone and FOM were also complicit."

Ironically, Ferrari has thus far not given its support to Massa's claim, even though he was driving for the Scuderia at the time.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by zoom, 20/03/2024 19:40

"oxymoron--integrity of F!"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by kenji, 15/03/2024 0:31

"@ ChickenFarmerF1....I think that Ferrari look weak because of their lack of support. Your post Abu Dhabi comment belies the real question of why Mercedes let the result stand without any challenge whatsoever. Remember they had a top flight legal rep in their garage at the very time as well. My take on all that is simple...they didn't have a case to prosecute and were warned off. Of course that hasn't stopped Wolff from bad mouthing Michael Masi at every opportunity though. A fact that rather discounts your theory that 'they dropped it and went on with life'.....I think that we'll have to agree to disagree as I will continue to suport Massa for the very reason that he was stiffed and everyone, or almost everone, now wishes to brush it under the carpet. Altruism is obviously a scarce commodity ATM."

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3. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 14/03/2024 15:46

"@kenji - "I am also disappointed that Ferrari are not visibly showing some support for Massa."

Perhaps that is because they realize, like most of us besides you on this thread, that it is not in the best interest of them, or the sport. It also makes Massa look like a sore loser.

After Abu Dhabi 2021 Hamilton and Mercedes could have litigated the issue. But they realized that any victory would likely be pyrrhic. So they dropped it, and went on with life. Massa should do the same."

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4. Posted by kenji, 14/03/2024 14:08

"@Spindoctor...You are quite correct insofar as I'm certainly no fan of Hamilton. No secret there. This entire episode as I've stated elsewhere has nothing to do with Hamilton'per se'. It just so happens that he got lucky that the sports [ ? ] 'controllers' manipulated the race results and he was the beneficiary. I assume that those same controllers who chose not to enact the 'statutes' thereby changing the winner did so without any further collusion. I certainly hope that when the dust settles the matter will finally deliver justice to Massa.I am also disappointed that Ferrari are not visibly showing some support for Massa. "

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 14/03/2024 13:39

"@kenji You are clearly no fan of Sir Lewis Hamilton, but he was the "rightful winner" of that WDC - he got the most points in the races that were counted towards it. I think it's time to let this go until the results of Massa's lawsuit are known.
More fat-chewing will then be appropriate...."

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6. Posted by Pavlo, 14/03/2024 12:08

"@kenji: firstly, Massa is not a "rightful winner". You can claim that neither is Lewis - maybe. But if you demand cancelling Singapore 2008, you have to as well cancel the whole 2008 season, because results were impacted by the crash the same way as the second part of Singapore GP.
Secondly, if you 100% rely on opinion of Ecclestone (which I don't), please read the whole statement. He said "there was a rule that a world championship classification after the FIA ​​awards ceremony at the end of the year was untouchable". So, they could and should have cancelled the race within the season 2008, but on purpose didn't do till the moment when they were not allowed to cancel it anymore. Which means, bottom line, they are not allowed anymore. And the lawsuit of Massa confirms it!

But all lawyers apart, from a pure sporting perspective, Felipe and Lewis didn't break the rules, they acted within their ability within the situation on the track, which was completely normal for the sport. Crash is normal for the sport, and it was not intended to affect positions of Felipe or Lewis in any way. If several years afterwards we found out that someone crashed on purpose, for me as a spectator it doesn't change anything in the efforts of Lewis and Felipe.
The mathematical calculation of Felipe winning the WDC is pure coincidence and theoretical exercise, that is pretty far from sport."

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7. Posted by kenji, 14/03/2024 11:18

"@ Pavlo....."reviewing the results....would ruin the credibility of F1'. I disagree. It would demonstrate that depite the passage of time a manufactured result was declared null and void resulting in restoring the 2008 WDC to it's rightful winner. Ecclestone has stated publically that that course of action, cancelling the race, was 'according to the statutes' What does that mean? It means that it is an [ F1 ] 'law that has been enacted'. Failure to apply those rules would in itself be a breach. I presume that is why Massa's court action conjoins Ecclestone as well. I don't expect to see a flurry of 'follow on' accusations arising as a result of this action. "

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8. Posted by kenji, 14/03/2024 10:55

"@ Chickenfarmewr.....Thanks for your reponse. let's try and simplify this. If, as Bernie says, they should've cancelled the race and John Todt concurs then it is apparent that the correct procdedure was to declare the race null and void and it was within their remit to do so. If this had been done then Massa would be WDC. If it was right to do then why isn't it right to do now? What has time got to do with it? Facts are still facts and time has no effect. "

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9. Posted by Pavlo, 14/03/2024 8:15

"@ChickenFarmer - totally agree. As many other seasons, they both drove a excellent seasons but only one can be a WDC. These are the seasons we enjoy most - when two top drivers do top job till the last race.
@kenji - quite opposite, reviewing the results 15 years later with punishing and promoting drivers unrelated to the incident would totally ruin the credibility of F1. This would mean, that the results of all (!) F1 seasons in history are unknown. Somebody may now claim that the accident in any race in 2021 where Max won was a "planned conspiracy" and the race has to be cancelled, with Lewis getting the 8th title. The only difference is that Ferrari messed up with the stop, and Mercedes didn't, but they both are unrelated to the incident.
The only acceptable way to make Massa a 2008 WDC is if we find out that Lewis or McLaren broke the rules. Then they should be disqualified. As we see with TDF, even that doesn't mean that Massa would be automatically granted WDC, but considering that Massa was fighting directly with Lewis, this would be fair decision.
Btw, I was a Ferrari fan in 2008 and is till now."

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10. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 14/03/2024 0:41

"And yet, @kenji, I and most others on this thread would view it as "a permanent stain on F1" to change the 2008 results now, even knowing what was done by Renault.

I'm not even that much of a Hamilton fan these days. I would rather see him win right now than VMax, but I'd even more like to see a youngster coming up take up the mantle. "

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11. Posted by kenji, 13/03/2024 23:55

"@Mad Matt and others. Cheating can, and does, come in many guises but in so many cases it is the 'individuals' choice to do so. I see this incident somewhat differently. This was a planned event, a conspiracy comprising three people [ at the very least ] and was carefully planned down to the actual lap and the location on track where it should take place. To me that is all rather unique and needs to be treated somewhat differently to any precedents! I have followed F1 since inception and motor sport prior to that for many many years and I cannot recall an identical incident having taken place but it would be naive to think that it hasn't. Others will correct me if i'm in error here, that's for sure. Any decision other than awarding Massa the credit that he's due will leave a permanent stain on F1. Given the current fracas about the Red Bull incident and the ' breach of ethics' involved certainly sustains the adage of 'different strokes for different folks'."

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12. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 13/03/2024 22:43

"At the end of the day I do feel bad for Massa. He drove an excellent season, and would have been an equally worthy WDC as Hamilton. Especially to have won Brazil, doing everything perfectly to win that WDC, with Hamilton too low on position to win on points, only for the heavens to open up, and Toyota to make that gamble, and then have the WDC snatched away by Hamilton passing Glock on literally the last corner of the season must have been gutting.

But, that's sport. It ain't over 'til it's over. And Hamilton drove that marginally stronger season overall to win by a single point. If he hadn't passed Glock, I'd be saying how Massa drove that marginally stronger season to win by having more total wins as the tie breaker.

I won't be too surprised if he gets some kind of settlement. Maybe $1-2mil. Nothing close to the $82mil he's asking for. Basically they might pay him off to make him go away and shut up. But there is zero chance of the 2008 season being revised to make him WDC, and reduce Hamilton's tally to 6. "

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13. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 13/03/2024 16:34

"Did the rules (as written back then) state that the race results HAD to be completely cancelled given what Renault did? Or was it they COULD have been as well as other less draconian options? I maintain that unless it was a mandatory result the FIA would not have cancelled the race in its entirety, even if they knew of the cheating before the next race. Disqualified Renault from the Singapore race? Definitely. Banned them from the remainder of the season (at least)? Highly likely. If they didn't find out until after the Brazil race, but before the trophy gala (per claims by some with agendas but without supporting evidence), I'd still have expected them to DQ Renault from Singapore, but probably not the rest of the season. A massive fine, banning of those involved from F1, etc.

Massa lost because the WDC because of things like not finishing the first 2 races (Hamilton only had 1 DNF), plus that disastrous pit stop. Not because the FIA didn't cancel the results of the race like Todt (then Ferrari boss and not a disinterested observer) claimed they could have years later."

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14. Posted by Superbird70, 13/03/2024 16:23

"Maybe Alonso and Piquet should have lost their WDC points for the season and all races adjusted? Similar to Schumacher in 2007. Or maybe Massa should be suing Ferrari for the retirements that season and the botched pitstop?
Maybe with hindsight we could have averted the Hindenburg disaster too?

Give Massa some money and a participation trophy and get on with things.
Full dislosure I am both a Ferrari and a McLaren fan. 70s were golden."

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15. Posted by Mad Matt, 13/03/2024 14:49

"@kenji I hadn't read that. If the rules really say that's what should have happened (race results being cancelled before the trophy was handed out) then it stinks even more than I had imagined. I don't think that would have been a fair thing to have done... but if it's the rules then it's the rules.

On the other hand did they really only know just before the ceremony?

Not sure it's be a good look for Fillipe even if he wins his case and was somehow awarded the WDC.

"

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