In April, Massa indicated that he planned to pursue legal recourse regarding the outcome of the 2008 F1 world championship. He narrowly lost the championship to Lewis Hamilton of McLaren by a mere point.
Massa acted on information from former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who suggested that knowledge of the controversial 2008 Singapore GP ‘crashgate’ was available early enough for action to be taken before the result of the championship was made final.
In March, Ecclestone stated in an interview with F1-insider that the outcome of the Singapore race, where Nelson Piquet Jr intentionally caused a crash to assist his Renault teammate Fernando Alonso in winning, could have been invalidated. This could have potentially shifted the balance in favor of the Ferrari driver in the title race.
Instead, the controversy was only formally investigated the following year, meaning it was too late to go back and amend the race or championship result.
Massa has formed a legal team and has recently issued a document known as a “Letter Before Claim” to the FIA and FOM. This letter outlines the specific details of the case that the Brazilian plans to take to court.
According to the document, which Motorsport.com has had access to, Massa’s defence alleges that the Brazilian was “the victim of a conspiracy”, with the FIA and FOM deliberately failing to take action even after becoming aware of the case.
The letter, addressing F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, alleges that the two bodies’ “motive to avoid a scandal” has cost the now 42-year-old Brazilian tens of millions of euros in lost earnings and bonuses.
Nelson Piquet Jr., Renault F1 Team R28 crashes into the wall
Photo by: Sutton Images
The letter asserts that Mr. Massa is the deserving winner of the 2008 Drivers’ Championship, and claims that F1 and FIA intentionally overlooked the wrongdoing that caused him to be deprived of the title.
At this point, Mr. Massa cannot accurately determine the exact extent of his losses, but he believes they will likely surpass tens of millions of Euros. However, it is important to note that these financial losses do not encompass the significant damage to Mr. Massa’s reputation and moral standing.
If there is no substantial response within a fortnight, the lawyers are directed to initiate legal action, as mentioned in the letter.
Interestingly, Ecclestone has recently claimed that he has no recollection of participating in the interview that sparked Massa’s legal crusade. Furthermore, he mentioned that neither Massa nor his legal representatives have reached out to him to authenticate his statements.
“To be completely honest, I have no recollection of any of this,” stated the 92-year-old to Reuters. “I cannot say for certain that I remember participating in the interview.”
It is yet to be determined if Massa’s team has a feasible opportunity to contest the championship outcome from 15 years ago.
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.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG, celebrates 3rd position in the sprint race, with Felipe Massa
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Additionally, the judicial system of the FIA explicitly states that the ultimate authority for making rulings rests with the autonomous International Court of Appeal. It is mandatory for all individuals participating in a championship to comply with its decisions.
In theory, Massa could seek out the views of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but it has no jurisdiction over the FIA on the matter.
The FIA statutes dictate that the CAS may only be involved in issues relating to the FIA’s Anti-Doping Disciplinary Committee.
When Motorsport.com approached the FIA for comment, they were unable to provide a response at the time of writing.