Felipe Massa lost the 2008 title battle to Lewis Hamilton in the final race of the season. Now he wants to change that result by challenging the outcome of that year’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The finish of the 2008 Formula 1 season was one of the most unbelievable ends to an F1 season ever (at least until the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix).
Back in 2008 Lewis Hamilton beat out Felipe Massa for the championship title by one point, and he did it in the final corner of the final race of the season, while Massa was already celebrating his victory.
However, there was another controversial moment that happened earlier in the season, at that year’s Singapore Grand Prix. In Singapore, Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his car to help his team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.
However this also affected Massa and his title chances, as during the Safety Car period triggered by the crash, the Brazilian suffered a botched pit stop that dropped him down to 13th, while his title rival Hamilton managed to finish in P3.
At the time it wasn’t known that Piquet crashed on purpose, this was only revealed the following year. It was then that those allegedly involved in the planning of the crash were punished (Renault’s team boss Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds).
When this was made public, Massa wanted the Singapore GP to be cancelled, as it would also change the outcome of the championship, making him champion.
However, this was impossible under the International Sporting Code, as the outcome of the championship cannot be changed once the FIA Awards ceremony is complete.
The FIA’s investigation at the time also determined that Alonso and the wider Renault team did not know about the plan to crash Piquet’s car, so the governing body felt it would not be fair to change the result of the race.
However, during a recent F1-Insider interview, Bernie Ecclestone (the F1 boss at the time) claimed that he and Max Mosley (FIA president at the time) knew that the rules were breached before the end of the 2008 season, but decided not to do anything about it.
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“We decided not to do anything for now,” Ecclestone said in the interview.
“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,” the Briton concluded.
Having heard those remarks, Massa told Motorsport.com that he is now considering legal action in hopes of overturning the result.
“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,” Massa said.
“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.
“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, to not tarnish the name of F1.
“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.”
Although Massa knows it’s not likely that the result of the 2008 championship will be changed, he still wants to pursue the matter.
“There are rules, and there are many things that, depending on the country, you cannot go back after 15 years to resolve a situation.
“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.
“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.
“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?”
Asked if he has spoken to his former team (Ferrari) about this, Massa said: “Not yet.”
While examining the situation Motorsport.com explained there is no chance of Massa’s pursuit being a success.
“While Massa plans to look into the matter, there do not appear to be any routes to get the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix cancelled,” Motorsport.com wrote.
“The FIA’s own International Sporting Code does not allow protests after a race, and any right to request a review expires 14 calendar days after a competition, and four days prior to the date of that year’s FIA prize-giving ceremony.
“Furthermore, the FIA’s judicial system is clear that the highest authority to make any ruling is the independent International Court of Appeal, and that any persons involved in a championship agree to abide by this.
“So there are no alternative courts that Massa could use.”
Furthermore, Motorsport.com compared the situation to Mercedes’ intention to appeal the result of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which the team ultimately decided not to launch.
“This judicial structure within the FIA, of the final call being the ICA, was one of the reasons why Mercedes abandoned its challenge over the result of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Hamilton lost the title after rules regarding the running of the event were not followed by F1 race director Michael Masi.
“Speaking at the time about the matter, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said that if there had been options of taking it through other legal channels, then they would have been pursued,” the article concluded.