Massa formally seeking reparation for 2008 F1 title ‘conspiracy’

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Lawyers for former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa have initiated legal proceedings against Formula One and the FIA, aiming to secure significant reparations following an alleged “conspiracy” that deprived the Brazilian of the 2008 championship.

According to Reuters, a formal eight-page Letter Before Claim was sent on August 15 to Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali and to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

London-based Enyo Law, representing the Brazilian driver, contends that Massa was “the victim of a conspiracy committed by individuals at the highest level of F1 together with the FIA and Formula One Management”.

The law firm asserts that Massa suffered substantial financial losses amounting to tens of millions of euros due to forgone earnings and bonuses as a result of the deliberate crash orchestrated by the Renault team in the 2008 Singapore GP and which spiraled into a scandal in 2009.

As a reminder, the Singapore GP ‘Crashgate’ scandal involved the deliberate manipulation of the race by Renault team principal Flavio Briatore to create a strategic advantage for the team’s star driver Fernando Alonso.

Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his car into a wall on lap 14 of the race, bringing out the safety car. The incident played a crucial role in reshuffling the race order and handing an advantage to Alonso who went on to win the race.

At the time, Ferrari’s Massa and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton were the main contenders for the title fight. But Alonso’s victory, aided by the manipulated crash, allowed him to gain valuable points and close the gap in the championship standings.

Later investigations revealed the orchestrated nature of the crash, and in 2009, the FIA deemed that Briatore and Renault director of engineering Pat Symonds had played a role in planning the crash.

They subsequently resigned from their positions within the team, while the French outfit was handed a suspended ban.

“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,” said the letter sent by the former driver’s legal team.

“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.”

Massa’s bid to investigate the controversial outcome of the 2008 title fight was triggered by comments made earlier this year by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone on what went on behind the scenes after that year’s infamous Singapore GP.

In an interview published last April on German website F1-Insider, Ecclestone said that he and then FIA president Max Mosley had been made fully aware at the time of what had happened in Singapore but the pair chose to turn a blind eye to the event orchestrated by Renault in a bid to “protect the sport” and to delay an official investigation until the following year.

“According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions,” Ecclestone said.

“That means it would never have happened for the World Championship standings. Then Felipe Massa would have become World Champion and not Lewis Hamilton.

“I still feel sorry for Massa today. He won the final at his home race in Sao Paulo and did everything right.

“He was cheated out of the title he deserved while Hamilton had all the luck in the world and won his first championship. Today I would have arranged things differently.”

Massa’s lawyers may be hard-pressed to achieve a successful litigation as the FIA’s International Sporting Code stipulates that 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.

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