Felipe Massa, former Ferrari driver who missed out not he 2008 world championship with 97 points to Lewis Hamilton’s 98, has now assembled a legal team and sent a Letter Before Claim to the FIA and FOM, that details of the case he intends to legally pursue in court.
I try to look at this from different sides. On one side, the title is done and dusted despite the 2008 crash gate in Singapore and the Brazilian Grand Prix last lap drama. Going back now and changing the classification is a very large ask of the Brazilian and the time for legal action would have been in 2008 or 2009.
I also understand that former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says that there was time to review and adjudicate the results of the Singapore Grand Prix in which Nelson Piquet Jr. purposefully crashed to help his teammate, Fernando Alonso win the race. Felipe may not have known that there was time for this adjustment to the results of a grand prix—within the 2008 seasons itself—and he only learned that recently.
Then there is the money. The letter to F1’s Stefano Domenicali and the FIA’s Mohammed Ben Sulayem says that both F1 and the FIA efforts to avoid a scandal has cost Felipe tens of millions of euros in lost earnings and bonuses. The letter goes on to state:
“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,”
“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.”
According to the Reuters article, 92-year-old Ecclestone says he can’t remember giving the interview that prompted Massa’s legal action.
I suspect this will not go far as anyone who participates in F1 is beholden to it’s legal proceedings via the FIA’s judicial system. The time for contesting the race and championship has passed but Mass may make an argument that he didn’t know the results could be contested. I’m not sure this will fly in the FIA Court of Appeal. It depends on if Ben Sulayem wants to make it a deal or not and how strong Massa’s case is.
I feel for Felipe. I’ve met him a few times and spoken to him about F1. He’s a very nice guy and a genuine article. I’m not sure what he is doing as an occupation now but I would imagine seeking those perceived lost wages/bonuses would come in handy during retirement.
It could be a slippery slope if we were to go back in time and re-adjudicate the results of championships based on scandal, drama or errant application of FIA regulations. One might make a case against the 2021 season for example or the 1994 season.
Some things are best left in the past but it does bring up a point about drivers and legal teams trying to navigate current season outcomes. It also might remind the FIA to tighten up their legal position so the results can’t be pierced by random legal teams.