Laura Marieee

I received an @reply from a friend on Twitter the other day that contained a link to a story about Felipe Massa where he said that he was robbed of the WDC last year by Renault’s race fixing.

This is the quote I wish to refer to from that link, as reported last Friday on reuters.com:

“All of what happened was robbery — but regarding the race nothing has happened, the result stays the same. That’s not right.”
“The robbery changed the championship. I lost by one point.”

He continued to say, comparing the situation to a football match:

“I have seen in football how a referee took money to throw a game and all the matches he influenced were annulled,” he said.

“The team responsible were relegated.

“Here they just sent Briatore home. I don’t understand it and I don’t think it was right.”

Hamilton himself said of Massa’s comment, as reported by BBC Sport Online: “I think all I can say is that it was a tough season, things happened, there were lots and lots of ‘what ifs’ throughout the season, so I’m a bit surprised to hear him say that, to be honest.

“I believe we had a fair battle throughout the season, so I’m a bit surprised.”

The story led me to question, what about the stewards’ decision in Spa that handed Massa the win of the race? Would that have meant the FIA would have handed Massa the championship, if Renault hadn’t cheated, and his pitstop had gone smoothly…? Obviously, we all have our own opinions on this, I’ll write it as it could be seen from both sides, but what do you really think? Is Massa right by what he says? Or do you believe there was more to the championship fight than Renault “robbing” Massa?

It’s a fair enough point to make that if Piquet hadn’t crashed in Singapore last year, Massa may not have had that pitlane blunder, and consequently may be the current world champion. At the same time, it is also fair to say that there were many ‘incidents’ in the 2008 season that effectively made a difference to the eventual outcome.

Depending on whether you are a Ferrari or a McLaren fan, or whether you sit on the fence, you are likely to have a different opinion on this, but the ‘incident’ from last season that very nearly re-shaped the championship, was Hamilton’s Spa penalty.

The incident that resulted in that penalty was where Hamilton cut the Bus Stop chicane and gained an advantage over Raikkonen in the closing laps of the race. Chicanes are supposed to slow down the car, and Hamilton cutting it meant he carried more speed into the straight, to gain an advantage over Kimi. While this was why the stewards issued him with a penalty, there were other factors that may suggest it was unnecessary.

First of all he gave Kimi back the place, and while in the dry lifting for the amount of time he did would have been perceived to have still been an advantage, what about the facts that:

a) Kimi was evidently struggling in the wet, while Hamilton had more grip going down the pit straight
b) Kimi passed Lewis again shortly after anyway
c) Kimi ended up in the wall, and
d) Massa didn’t even lead at any point in the race.

When you iron out all the creases of this penalty, technically, Hamilton was perhaps the deserved winner of the race and ultimately you would then say the championship. So therefore you could argue, that while Massa has every right to feel like he was ‘robbed’ by Renault, Hamilton may well have been the one complaining he was robbed by what, in hindsight, could be debated as the wrong decision. McLaren certainly saw it that way when they appealed the decision.

While it was the stewards’ decision to penalise Hamilton and award Massa the race win, it is also a fair point to make, that the six points gained by Massa in Spa, would have been what handed him the championship over Hamilton, if indeed the events of Singapore had been different.

The stewards’ decision was an official decision that nothing on track could change, it was just a case of lost or gained points decided in an office after the racing had finished, whereas the safety car and the botched pitstop changed the way it played out for the other contender while the race was still underway. While Hamilton’s penalty came about from a racing incident, Massa’s finish out of the points in Singapore happened as the race played out. But did the crash and the safety car make a difference, would it have happened anyway?

You can look at this from two points of view.

Firstly, Massa is right, that Hamilton had been penalised, whether rightly or wrongly, and the results of that stood going into Singapore two races later. And that was when Piquet crashed and the safety car was deployed, and that pitstop blunder cost Massa the title, by one point.

Secondly, there is the factor that technically the win in Spa was Hamilton’s, and even if Singapore had gone smoothly, the title was rightly Hamilton’s anyway, because after all, the on-track racing is where the points are decided, not in the stewards’ room afterwards where the right or wrong decisions are made for or against the person who crossed the line first.

Then again, there could be a third point of view: Massa may still have pulled out of his pit box with his fuel hose attached.

All this has come from a quote, and while I won’t debate that what Massa said could indeed be true, there are also other keys factors that ultimately paved the way to the final championship result. Of course, I am a McLaren fan, so I do look at it with Spa in mind, and that the championship wasn’t just about Renault fixing one race. But what do you think? Is Massa right, or was it just one of those ‘incidents’ from last season that cost a driver vital points?

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ian
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ian

well, personally i agree with you, there are far too many elements involved in a Grand Prix season, and indeed in a single race, for Massa to claim that he was robbed of the WDC because of one thing happening – would he claim he was robbed by his pit crew if Piquet hadn’t crashed and he still left his pitbox with the fuel hose attached??!
I think Massa should forget about an incident and a race the rest of F1 is trying to move past, and concentrate on getting back up to speed in his car ready for next season.

peterriva
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peterriva

You are right on this… ater under the bridge. What ifs are impossible to calculate and always sour grapes… But then again, there is Hamilton’s rear-ending Kimi at a stop light to keep Kimi from winning (which he was at the time)… Another what if… Slowly, getting to hate all these political and “iffy” decisions. Last week-end, Singapore, why the hell could they have not made a decision right then and there during Qualifying? It was obvious, ON TV for god’s sake. And why only a yellow? There was a broken car on the track… isn’t that the number one… Read more »

Laura Marieee
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Laura Marieee

Like you say, so many ‘what ifs’ it seems crazy that Massa could blame losing the championship on one incident. The point I was getting at is that if Massa had won, surely the stewards’ decision in Spa would’ve given Hamilton a right to say, “but I actually won that race! You’ve handed him the championship!” There are so many inconsistencies in the stewards’ decisions that it makes it hard to blame one incident on losing the championship. We’ve seen penalties handed out to drivers when the teams release them from their pitbox into the path of another car, but… Read more »

Fandangio
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Fandangio

It’ll make for fun at Maranello next year if Felipe Baby thinks that Fernando was in the know…

Benalf
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Benalf

Massa lost the DWC because the team made poor pit choices. nobody knows if he could have won -or finish- Singapore 08 having Jr. Jr. opted for racing instead doing whatever he did….In the end, Massa showed a strong actitude and driving skills to become a WC, and honestly his weakest point during 08 season was his poor showing at Silverstone; he should have score point there or crashed fighting for positions, never stroll his way to the finish line after a horrendous rain driving show….

Some Guy
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Some Guy

A few thoughts: 1) Brazil would’ve been entirely different. As would probably China and Japan. As such, if you’re going to discount Singapore, it’s unfair to continue counting everything afterwards because it was based on singapore. So take it back to the championship standings after Spa? Hamilton wons. 2) Both McLaren and Ferrari had to cope with the safety car. Ferraris pit system went wrong again. They should’ve changed it after Valencia, but due to the nature of the punishment there, they chose not to. I note they still haven’t brought it back even a year later. 3) Net points… Read more »