Just last week, former F1 driver Felipe Massa made a groundbreaking announcement that has sent shockwaves through the Formula 1 community. Massa revealed his intentions to take legal action against both Formula 1 and the FIA for their alleged wrongful denial of his rightful driver’s title in the tumultuous 2008 season. This unexpected development has captured the attention of fans and experts alike, rekindling discussions about one of the sport’s most controversial moments.
The genesis of this legal saga can be traced back to the dramatic events of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. During that fateful race, Renault, a prominent F1 team, faced severe backlash after being found culpable of orchestrating a shocking maneuver. They allegedly instructed their driver, Nelson Piquet Junior, to deliberately crash his car, a move that would subsequently benefit his teammate, Fernando Alonso. This calculated crash altered the course of the race and cast a shadow over the championship battle.
“Simply put, Mr Massa is the rightful 2008 Driver’s Champion, and F1 and FIA deliberately ignored the misconduct that cheated him out of that title.”
At the heart of the matter was Felipe Massa, the then-lead driver for the Ferrari F1 team. Massa was poised for victory until an ill-fated pit stop threw a wrench in his championship aspirations. The pit stop ended prematurely, leaving Massa with a fuel hose still attached to his Ferrari. This unfortunate mishap cost him precious time and crucial points, ultimately pushing him down the ranks. The unexpected turn of events allowed Lewis Hamilton, his rival from McLaren, to secure a third-place finish and secure the championship by a mere solitary point over Massa.
“This is what we are fighting for. This is [why] we get together a group of lawyers to fight because this is the correct thing to do
“We are pretty confident (in) the situation. We will fight them to the end because it was not correct. It was not fair for the sport, what’s happened.”
The repercussions of the Singapore Grand Prix reverberated throughout the sport. Renault faced severe penalties, including a five-year ban on Pat Symonds, the director of engineering, and a two-year suspended disqualification for team principal Flavio Briatore. However, these sanctions were later overturned, casting doubts on the integrity of the disciplinary process.
“The punishment was no punishment,” Massa said. “Nobody paid for that. For me, this is — sorry for the word — but it is bulls***.”
Adding a layer of intrigue to the narrative, Bernie Ecclestone, the former CEO of the F1 Group, divulged a startling revelation in an interview with F1 Insider. Ecclestone admitted that he, alongside FIA president Max Mosley, had prior knowledge of the infamous “Crashgate” scandal before it came under public scrutiny. Despite this admission, Ecclestone claimed to have a hazy memory of his previous statements on the matter, leaving fans bewildered.
“They really understand that it was manipulation. They really understand that it was a race, it happened – a very serious situation like corruption, like manipulation — that is not the correct thing for the sport.
“I really hope they look back, and they fix what was not fair for the sport and for the people.
“I won it, so I need to get the confirmation that that is exactly what’s happened in the correct way.”
Massa, in response to these revelations, expressed his disbelief that individuals were privy to the controversy yet chose to remain silent. This apparent collusion and cover-up have ignited debates on the ethics and transparency within the sport.
“After 15 years, you hear that people knew (and) they didn’t want it to do anything not to destroy Formula One’s name because it was a very serious situation, like Crashgate. So then, it was a big shock.”
Interestingly, parallels have emerged between the 2008 incident and a more recent controversy in the 2021 season. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix witnessed a pivotal decision by the FIA that altered the championship outcome in favor of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who secured the title over Lewis Hamilton. This turn of events has sparked questions among fans and observers about the consistency and fairness of decisions made by the governing bodies of the sport.
“Both drivers start with equal points into this race; best man in the best machinery wins, and the best man that day didn’t win.
“The interesting phenomenon was that we as a team, and Lewis as a driver, we didn’t get a lot of credit or sympathy because we won so many times. And we became the underdog at that moment.”
The aftermath of the 2008 scandal and the ensuing legal action undertaken by Felipe Massa have cast a spotlight on Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s actions. Notably, Mercedes chose not to pursue any formal action in the wake of the 2008 incident. However, as Massa’s legal pursuit gains momentum, speculation has arisen about the possibility of Mercedes revisiting the issue and exploring potential avenues for justice.
“I’m really just focused on here and now
“[I’m] helping a team get back in the championship race and am not really focused on what happened 15 years ago.”
As the Formula 1 community grapples with the reverberations of the past, Lewis Hamilton remains resolute in his approach. Looking ahead, he is focused on his racing endeavors and the challenges that lie ahead on the track. Amid the unfolding legal drama and renewed debates about the sport’s integrity, Hamilton’s determination to excel and secure his legacy on merit remains unwavering.