Felipe Massa takes legal action over 2008 title loss to Hamilton

Felipe Massa takes legal action over 2008 title loss to Hamilton

In an eight-page “Letter Before Claim,” Felipe Massa’s lawyers believe that the former Ferrari driver is the legitimate 2008 Drivers Champion and was defrauded of the title which was taken by Lewis Hamilton.

Felipe Massa’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit against Formula 1 and the FIA. The lawsuit is linked to the driver’s 2008 title loss to Lewis Hamilton following the Crashgate controversy and an alleged conspiracy that followed that year.

Massa, who was then driving for Ferrari, lost out on the 2008 championship after the last race in Brazil by one point to Hamilton. The latter who was then driving for McLaren took fifth place in the same race, which he required on the final lap in wet conditions to mark his maiden F1 championship victory.

However, recent remarks by former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone concerning the historic “Crashgate” controversy that happened in Singapore earlier in the season have inspired Massa to consider all of his possible options for compensation and possibly appealing the results.

Reuters reported that an official eight-page “Letter Before Claim” from London-based Enyo Law was delivered on Tuesday to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, even though Massa is currently not permitted to appeal under FIA regulations.

Speaking on Massa’s behalf, the law firm claims that the Brazilian was the victim of a plot by those at the very highest levels of F1, along with the FIA and the sport’s executives. The lawyers further state that by failing to win the 2008 championship, Massa has forfeited tens of millions of euros in lost wages and bonuses.

The crashgate controversy came to light after Nelson Piquet Jr.’s Renault teammate was found to have intentionally crashed in order to bring out a safety car that helped Fernando Alonso win the Singapore Grand Prix.

Massa’s pit stop was forced by the safety car, and Ferrari handled it poorly, resulting in Massa finishing the race in 13th place while Hamilton finished third. This six-point gap ultimately affected the outcome of the championship.

Despite Massa’s protests, the race’s outcome stood despite penalties meted out to Renault and team principal Flavio Briatore the following season. This is because, according to the FIA’s regulations and the FIA International Sporting Code, it is impossible to reverse a season’s standings after the FIA Awards Ceremony has taken place.

Ecclestone admitted in March that he and the previous FIA president Max Mosley were aware of the 2008 Crashgate issue but chose not to disclose the details in order to spare the sport a huge controversy.

“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,” Massa’s lawyers stated in a letter to F1 and the FIA.

“Mr Massa is unable to fully quantify his losses at this stage but estimates that they are likely to exceed tens of millions of Euros. This amount does not cover the serious moral and reputational losses suffered by Mr Massa.”

FIA acknowledged receiving correspondence from Massa’s attorneys and added: “The matter is under review and we will not be providing comment at this stage.”

Formula 1 declined to respond when questioned on the issue. Additionally, Ecclestone stated to Reuters that he couldn’t recall making the critical remarks.

“I don’t remember any of this, to be honest,” said the former Formula 1 chief. “I don’t remember giving the interview for sure.”

The fresh controversy regarding the 2008 championship started following Ecclestone’s statement to F1-Insider earlier this year.

“We decided not to do anything for now. We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal.,” Ecclestone said. “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.”

Speaking in Miami in May, Massa referred to the situation as an injustice.

“You fight them to the last corner of the last race, pass the chequered flag as the champion and then everything changed,” Massa told Sky Sports. “For sure, a fight on the track.

“Then you discover what has happened in Singapore. People, important people like Bernie, like Max Mosley, like Charlie Whiting… they knew in 2008 and they didn’t do anything.

“That is really a massive surprise for me. It’s really an injustice and I think definitely we need to study everything that happened because it’s not fair what has happened.”

Massa’s attorneys also stated that the Brazilian demands acknowledgement that, bar to these illegal actions, he would have won the 2008 Championship. They also stated that, if a proper response is not received within 14 days, they will start legal processes in the English courts.

Despite starting the legal action, Massa is unable to legally overturn the outcome since, according to the FIA’s International Sporting Code, protests and reviews must be submitted 14 days after a competition and four days before the award ceremony for the year in question.

The independent International Court of Appeal is the highest authority in sport, therefore he is also unable to use the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which lacks authority over the FIA in cases like this.

Only F1 issues involving the FIA’s Anti-Doping Disciplinary Committee may engage CAS.

The 2008 season turned out to be Massa’s greatest season in his Formula 1 career, and he retired in 2017. In contrast, Hamilton went on to win six more championships with Mercedes and currently shares the record for most F1 World Championships with Michael Schumacher with seven.

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