Lawyers for former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa have sent preservation notices to Ferrari and ex-Renault team officials ahead of potential court action over the 2008 F1 World Championship in the wake of revelations made by former supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
A spokesman for Massa said formal requests for the preservation of any relevant documents were sent on Tuesday and recipients included former Renault F1 Team Principal Flavio Briatore, that team’s ex-Technical Director Pat Symonds and former Sporting Manager Steve Nielsen for their involvement in the notorious Crashgate affair.
Symonds is now Chief Technical Officer of Formula 1 while Nielsen is Sporting Director at the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA). Renault currently compete as Alpine. Renault’s then-title sponsor ING was also named.
Massa, now 42, is taking legal action over the alleged Crashgate “conspiracy” that he says denied him the 2008 F1 Title.
Seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton won that F1 Title, his first, by a single point in a year that became notorious after Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr. revealed in 2009 he had been told by team bosses to crash deliberately at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Massa, who retired in 2017, was leading that race for Ferrari but the crash triggered a safety car that benefited Piquet’s double F1 World Champion teammate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win.
Massa, who failed to score after a bungled pitstop, claims the race should have been cancelled because the sport’s leaders allegedly knew before the end of the 2008 season what had happened but covered it up.
Brazilian lawyer Bernardo Viana told Reuters last week that Formula 1 and the FIA had been given until mid-October to respond to a Letter Before Claim sent to them on 15 August. (Report by Alan Baldwin)
After all these years why is Felipe Massa opening old F1 wounds?
Sparking Massa’s quixotic crusade apparently, was when F1 supremo at the time Bernie Ecclestone speaking to F1-Insider journo Ralf Bach, rewound back to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix and lobbed a “grenade” at the same time: “[FIA President]Max Mosley and I were informed about what had happened in the race in Singapore during the 2008 season.
“Piquet junior had told his father Nelson Piquet [F1 world champion with Ecclestone’s team Brabham] that he had been asked by the team to deliberately drive into the wall at a certain time in order to trigger a safety car phase and so on to help his teammate Alonso.”
The reason young Piquet agreed is well known: “He was worried about his contract extension, so he was under a lot of pressure and agreed. We decided not to do anything for the moment. We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal. That’s why I spoke with the tongue of an angel to my former driver Nelson Piquet to keep calm.”
Then he pulled the pin on the grenade: “There was a rule back then that a World Championship ranking, after the FIA awards ceremony at the end of the year, was inviolable. So Hamilton was presented with the World Championship trophy and everything was fine.”
But now everything is not fine…
Massa’s actions could set a precedent that would turn several past F1 World Titles on their collective heads, thanks to the explosive revelations by Ecclestone which continued: “We had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the [FIA] statutes, we would probably have had to nullify the race in Singapore under those conditions.
“That means the race would never have taken place [no points] in terms of the World Championship standings. Then Felipe Massa would have become world champion and not Lewis Hamilton,” declared Ecclestone
“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.
“That’s why for me Michael Schumacher is still the sole record world champion. Even if the statistics say otherwise,” reasoned Ecclestone.
Bernie perhaps forgot the contentious manner in which Michael Schumacher won the 1994 title from Damon Hill. Should Massa’s daft plan to overturn the 2008 result come to fruit, the latter would have a good case for Title reversal too, turning the sport’s legacy into a farce as those are not the only controversial F1 world championships. (Additional Reporting GP247)