Ferrari unwilling to comment on Massa’s legal claim over 2008 title defeat

2023 F1 season

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Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said it would be “strange” if the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 season was revisited in response to a legal bid brought by the team’s former driver Felipe Massa.

However Vasseur, who was not in charge of Ferrari or any of its F1 rivals during the controversial events of that year’s Singapore Grand Prix, stressed “I don’t want to make any comment on this matter”.

Reports emerged last week that Massa’s representatives sent a Letter Before Claim to the FIA and F1. The CEO of the latter, Stefano Domenicali, was team principal at Ferrari when Massa lost the 2008 championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point.

Massa’s narrow title defeat in the final race came five weeks after he lost a potential win in the Singapore Grand Prix. He led the early stages of the race until he lost time due to a botched pit stop during an early Safety Car period.

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault., Singapore, 2008
Feature: Crashgate – The 2008 Singapore Grand prix controversy explained
It later emerged the Safety Car period had been triggered deliberately by Nelson Piquet Jnr, who crashed in order to help his team mate Fernando Alonso win the race, which he did. While Massa failed to score, Hamilton picked up six points for third place and pulled further ahead of his rival at the top of the championship standings.

Former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone recently claimed the FIA could have acted sooner in response to the allegations Renault had cheated. By the time it did so, almost a year after the race, it was unable to alter the results, which could have led to Massa becoming champion instead of Hamilton.

Vasseur, who briefly headed Renault’s F1 team in 2016 and joined Ferrari at the beginning of this season, admitted the events of 15 years ago had been unusual, but was reluctant to be drawn on his team’s stance over the controversy.

“I have a good relationship with all the stakeholders on this topic, and it’s quite tricky,” he said. “For sure the circumstances were completely exceptional.

“But more generally, and not about Felipe, I think we are also trying to push the FIA to know the result of the event at the chequered flag. And perhaps this, I don’t know. I don’t want to make any comment, but for sure it would be strange [to revise the result].”

He indicated he is not keen on the idea of changing the outcome of a race after it has finished. “I’m not a big fan to change the result of the race 15 minutes after the chequered flag.”

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42 comments on “Ferrari unwilling to comment on Massa’s legal claim over 2008 title defeat”

  1. 13 years later…

    “Mercedes unwilling to comment on Hamilton’s legal claim over 2021 title defeat”

    1. Exactly.

      Not a good optic, Felipe. Let’s move on.

      1. Funny tho how Ham fans don’t move on about 2021 defining it a fake wdc, but Massa should move on after knowing that Fia new about the Renault cheating

        1. @Manto, very different scenarios. In 2021 Abu Dhabi, Masi broke the rules. The FIA broke the rules. In 2009, Renault was naughty. They acted in an unsporting manner, they cheated, but it also falls into a very grey area of the sport. Teams and drivers do try to take advantages. Reminds me of Rosberg and Schumacher faking an off in Monaco, actions which were obvious enough to be caught. But the FIA is supposed to be enforcing the rules, not breaking them. For sure this wasn’t the first time a team or driver provoked an incident to manipulate the outcome of a session, and for sure a few happened without being found out in the history of the sport. For sure Renault should have been disqualified from the race, but that does not guarantee Massa’s victory or title. Ferrari botched the pitstop. The future after that race would have unfolded differently. What do you do about Abu Dhabi 2021? Do you disqualify the FIA? Do you cut the race shorter due to misuse of the safety car protocol? It is also tricky to revert it back. The damage is done. If you change an event, you cannot assume that the subsequent events would have unfolded in the same way. The FIA breaking the rules is like a judge misusing the rule of law. Much more serious and with bigger implications. If Piquet Jr would have kept his mouth shut, nobody would have known that the spin was intentional. Just another rookie making mistakes. And we would not be having this discussion.

          1. There is nothing grey about Renault elements cheating in that race.

  2. By the time it did so, almost a year after the race, it was unable to alter the results, which could have led to Massa becoming champion instead of Hamilton.

    There is absolutely no way in the rulebook for F1, or WMSC, that this sentence could possibly be true. The number of races that would / could be retroactively thrown out based on this precedent would easily go back to the 1990 Japanese grand prix. The absolute best Massa could hope for is for Renault to be disqualified for the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix– and that wouldn’t help Massa, it would help Hamilton. The best he can hope for is a cash infusion from the FIA / FoM.

    But the truth is, Max Mosley is dead, and Ecclestone is getting to the point where it would not be difficult for a decent cross-examination to trip him up, and render his testimony “unreliable”. So where’s the proof the FIA knew anything?

    If Massa wanted to win the championship, he could have done things like not spinning out at the British Grand Prix repeatedly, or not driving off with his fuel hose attached in Singapore. Even am assist from the stewards at Spa wasn’t enough for Massa to win.

    Do we remove Schumacher’s first championship from the books? How about Senna’s in Japan? How about Alonso in Germany, when team orders were most definitely illegal? And then there’s Abu Dhabi 2021.

    1. Here is my article about all the races which would need to be annulled. The idea that an entire race should be declared null and void because of one team cheating is insane and Bernie Ecclestone is probably just stirring up trouble.

      1. I wasted some of my time reading your article. Interesting effort but none of the races you mentioned was a similar case. It’s that hard to see the difference? Renault acts changed the whole race outcome, it’s not a matter of beneficting themselfs. It’s like an arranged result in other sports, to be honest in every other sport that race would be cancelled straight away.

        1. I wasted some of my time reading your article

          A tad rude. I’m not really sure where it is stated that the cases are specifically similar. The article does include the statement “for a bit of fun” which – for me at least – suggests it isn’t trying to be a definitive reference.

      2. 2007 – McLaren cheated all season with ‘Spygate’ as they used secret information about the Ferrari car

        Actually, examination of the McLaren and Ferrari designs by the FIA experts showed that McLaren had not used any of the design data.
        Although there was talk that the Ferrari design contained a historically proven McLaren design element or two (along with ‘samples’ from any other decent car on the grid)

      3. Thanks f1frog, your post makes for a very interesting read, with some well-aired disputes besides a lot of obscure and pretty much forgotten incidents.

        Of course many of the points you raise are not beyond argument but I will take them at face value. What I dislike most is voiding whole seasons (there are no winners in 1994 and 2007).

        For people who do not have the time or can be bothered I’ll only remark here the proposed changes in WDCs and how I feel about them (not commenting on the actual incident that changed it, please read the original f1frog post for that).

        1970; Jacky Icks gets his only WDC, on one hand I am happy about it because I think he deserved one (yeah, I know, deserving means nothing, do not bother to remind me). On the other hand it makes me sad because I still believe that the postumous championship by Jochen Rindt was richly deserved, after maybe the most stonking season in the whole of F1 history.

        Clay Regazzoni gets the WDC in 1974 and Carlos Reutemann in 1981. I’m happy with both, along with The Boy (Stirling Moss), The Lion (Gilles Villeneuve) and The Super Swede (Ronnie Peterson), they make my list of most deserving guys without an WDC. The losers are Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet but I won’t cry too much over them, they still keep 1 WDC and I always found them a bit overrated (Nelson also loses 1983 to Alain Prost).

        Didier Pironi takes the 1982 WDC from Keke Rosberg, well Keke was extremely fortunate to get that one with only 1 win and I won’t cry over him either. Pironi was maybe a deserving WDC but still the indirect way in which he contributed to Gilles’ demise makes me uneasy about him. Unfair, surely but I cannot help it.

        Alain Prost is the real winner here, going to 7 WDCs (1983, 1984 and 1988 added) which I think were richly deserved. He gets up there, only tied with Michael Schumacher as the most successful drivers in F1 ever. The losers here are Nelson Piquet (already commented), Niki Lauda (drops from 3 to 2 which is maybe a bit unfair) and Ayrton Senna, the second most overrated driver in F1 history after you know who. 7/2 instead of 4/3 WDcs makes in my opinion a much fairer reckoning of the respective merits of Le Professeur and The Great Bu11y. At least in the dry; I freely admit that Ayrton was undoubtedly much more of a rainmaster than Alain.

        Michael Schumacher goes from 7 to 7 WDCs remaining on top (although shared with Alain Prost as mentioned), losing the 1994 title (to nobody, null season, could have been for Damon Hill who has more than enough with the 1996 title) but getting the 1997 title from Jacques Villeneuve (his only one but no regrets from my side, his father deserved it a lot more, JV landed as a rookie a very dominant car -those all-conquering Williams Renaults- and was close to winning as a rookie -second to Damon Hill, same car- while f1metrics places him as 12th best driver that season, that’s food for thought).

        Now 2007, Kimi Raikkonnen loses his only title… to no one. Too bad, I really liked Kimi and always thought he could have landed 2 or 3 titles. However he overstayed, the way in which Fred owned Kimi in their 2014 Ferrari season was ridiculous.

        Last one, the still disputed 2008 title which would have gone to Felipe Massa, I liked the guy and felt sorry for him. He was a bit too irregular for being true WDC material and f1metrics ranks him only 3rd that season (still better than Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton who ranks 4th so not totally unfair). The best in the f1metrics model was of course Fernando Alonso and the second Rubens Barrichello. Everybody knows who loses the 2008 title, getting down to 6, below Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost, both with 7. Fair enough.

        Now please f1frog could you check for some forgotten incident that could give Gilles Villeneuve and Stirling Moss the crown? Gilles’ one would probably at the expense of Jody Scheckter (1979) which would be a pity anyway. Or if he had survived the 1982 crash he might have bested both Keke Rosberg and Didier Pironi, who knows. And Moss’ one could be at the expense of Mike Hawthorn… or El Chueco (JM Fangio), but Fangio is untouchable, maybe the only driver in F1 history whom I’d reckon without hesitation as better than Moss.

        1. Thanks for the comment. Stirling Moss would of course have the 1958 title had Mike Hawthorn been disqualified in Portugal for driving backwards on the track, where Moss famously argued on his behalf. But under the delusional Bernie Ecclestone rules, if that counted as cheating then the entire race disappears and Moss still isn’t world champion. I agree that he was one of the greatest ever, and was by far the class of the field between 1958 and 1961.

          And in 1979, the championship was decided on the best four results from the first seven races and best four from the final eight. Had the first half of the season been longer instead, as had been the case every other year of the split dropped scores rule when there was an odd number of races, Gilles Villeneuve would actually have been champion that year. And I’m sure he would have taken 1982, 1983 and probably 1985 had he survived Zolder and stayed with Ferrari, although he was heavily rumoured to move to Williams after Imola 1982, in which case he would still have won 1982 with Ferrari, and then probably 1986 and 1987 with Williams if he was still there at that time.

          1. Gilles Villeneuve had the right attitude and was a much-beloved driver because of that (and also because getting killed in your prime is terrible sad but makes for rose-tinted memories). Much as I liked Gilles, he was not really GOAT material, but could have won a few titles with the right car. And the 1982 Ferrari 126 was the class of the field. Only Gilles’ demise at Zolder and Didier’s shunt at Hockenheim gifted the title to Keke Rosberg, but there is little doubt that Gilles could have won the title. Surprisingly (for me), the f1metrics model estimates that Eddie Cheever was the best driver in 1982, but his Ligier was not up to the task, had an ungodly number of mech failures, and finished 12th.

            Counterfactuals are kind of fun; f1metrics has a hypothetical post on Gilles having survived (and stayed in Ferrari until the end of his career). Although never being the top 1 driver (hey, Le Professeur was around) he gets the 1982 and 1983 titles, he is 3rd in 1984 (after Lauda and Prost) and 2nd in 1985 (after Prost). The model does not consider his possible switch to Williams, but it could easily have landed him a couple more titles.

    2. Ecclestone doesn’t even need to be cross-examined. He is already backing away from the story.

      Ecclestone, 92, told Reuters by telephone from Switzerland he could not remember saying the key quotes attributed to him.

      “I don’t remember any of this, to be honest,” said the Briton, who was replaced as F1 supremo in 2017 after U.S.-based Liberty Media took over as commercial rights holders.

      “I don’t remember giving the interview for sure.”

      He said neither Massa nor the Brazilian’s lawyers had approached him to ask what he might have said.

    3. When Schumacher was excluded from the season for his unsportsmanlike conduct in the final race of the season against Villeneuve, that did not lead to any race results being changed, or any change in points for other drivers. All the other drivers stayed on the same points, the same number of race wins, pole positions, etc. The only difference was that they all moved up one position in the final WDC standings.

      The FIA could disqualify both Renault drivers and the Renault team from one race or the whole championship but it does not in any way alter the points that the other drivers were awarded. You cannot change a result once you’ve moved on to the next race, and that is the only completely fair way of doing it.

      Sport is dynamic. In F1, drivers and teams respond to the situations at the time and we cannot guess what might have happened if Renault hadn’t cheated. I think it is fair to say that Massa might have scored an extra point or two and gone into the final race in a stronger position, just as it is equally fair to say if Massa had held a larger lead going into the final race, the pressure of expectation might have got to him and he might well have bottled it and crashed in the run up to the first corner. We’ll never know what might have happened.

      Wasn’t that the same year that Hamilton was penalised at Spa for his off-track pass re-pass in the rain on Raikkonen? That was a very controversial incident at the time which saw some arbitrary rulings by the stewards, and a 25 second penalty which promoted Massa to the race win, and dropped Hamilton to third or fourth. If Massa wants the season to be re-examined for fairness, does he want that race reinvestigated as well?

      1. That Spa 2008 penalty was a disgrace. More biased than just arbitrary, just thank god he won it in the end.

      2. Well in that case give the 2005 Suzuka win to Fred, he got shafted by a very similar decision. He was well on the way to win from 16th.

        Anyway Fred still got the WDC in 2005 and Kimi got one of his best wins from 17th in the grid. And really the penalties were deserved (both) although in Fred’s case it was further complicated by a series of contradictory decisions by the stewards. So I stand by the penalties (not by the added decisions)

        Sorry but nothing to complain about the Spa penalty. Anyway I understand that people were shocked by it. The Untouchable One, the One with a free pass to get away with just about anything getting a penalty, unheard of. Really, some stewards did not get the impunity memo.

  3. Let me finish the headline for you:

    Ferrari unwilling to comment on Massa’s legal claim over 2008 title defeat…because it reminds them that they are terrible at pitstops which occur during crucial moments of a race.

    1. Let me finish the headline for you:
      Ferrari unwilling to comment on Massa’s legal claim over 2008 title defeat…because it reminds them that they are terrible at pitstops which occur during crucial moments of a race.

      Exactly this. Anyone, and I mean anyone who has followed F1 for more than a handful of races will know that Ferrari had a solid record of mucking up pits tops at crucial points in races.
      The only real change result, on precedent, that could be hoped for with the Singapore 2008 race is that the cheats are deleted from the result. No win for Alonso, a first win for Rosberg, 2 extra points for Hamilton, and with everyone moving up one place, Jenson Button picks up one point.

      Felipe would be disappointed to note that even removal of all the podium finishers still wouldn’t give him even a single point.

      As I said elsewhere, Felipe is suing the wrong people, he should sue Ferrari for their almost scheduled muck ups.
      That said, he didn’t actually have to drive away without checking that everything (hose etc) and everyone (all engineers) was clear of the car.

      1. Aha, would’ve been funny if vasseur had said “well, we’re still making some pit stops like that, aren’t we?”

      2. And obviously massa wants the race result to be made null and void, THAT would help him.

      3. @SteveP To be fair to Massa, he got the green light from the team. You can see it clearly in this video, even though it is an offboard. The green light on the left of the gantry lights up and then he goes.

        1. Agrred, in spite of SteveP’s comment almost nobody is seriously blaming Felipe. The team gave him the green light, it was their mistake (mechanical, not human, I have read somewhere but anyway not Felipe’s fault). The tenths count and you have to trust the team, you really cannot check by yourself that everything is right without losing a lot more rtime in each pitstop.

  4. As was mentioned before it’s less so about changing the result of the championship but more about the damages suffered by Massa as a result, in terms of bonuses earned and the ability to negotiate higher value contracts as a “champion”

    I believe Felipe has a case and it’s worth pursuing. I also have no expectations of the record books changing for any past F1 championship, regardless of how much time has passed.

    1. To this point, Felipe’s case seems to hinge on the claims of an unhinged old man that the FIA could have acted sooner. One could argue that the lawsuit should be brought against Briatore et. al who orchestrated the events of the day.

    2. But how would he have been ‘champion’? There seem to be two slippery claims: first that he would have won in Singapore or at least have picked up points without the Piquet crash. That’s completely unknown and also impossible to adjudicate. But it seems to be the basis of his ‘moral claim’ to the title. The only options available to FIA would have been to cancel the Renault drivers and/or team points (precedent exists) or cancel the entire race (no precedent exists) or the entire season for Renault and/or its drivers (again no precedent). But Massa’s other claim is precisely that he’d have been declared champion because the race would have been annulled.
      It’s this sneakiness that irritates. Implying that the Piquet crash caused him to lose points, unprovable, but taking Ecclestone’s throwaway mud-stirring remark as ‘proof’ that he would have been made champion if FIA had acted correctly, which is unprecedented, unknowable and very unlikely.
      In none of this does Massa consider how fair this would be to Hamilton (or anyone else) who did nothing wrong and would – according to Massa – have been deprived of the title. In much the same way he was deprived of the Spa 2008 race long after the result – for which Massa picked up a big bunch of points, despite being frankly hopeless in wet weather that year, at Spa and at Silverstone.

      1. Yet it’s possible to adjudicate that Hamilton would have scored enough points more than Massa, without Renault’s intervention, to win the title?

        The result should be annulled because it affected everyone’s race. I also hate the fact results can be changed after the event, but it doesn’t mean Massa is doing anything wrong in pursuing this.

        1. Good point, the likelihood of a massa victory was high and if the argument is that it wasn’t sure he’d have won, then it also isn’t sure hamilton would’ve got enough points without the crash.

          And I’m not on massa’s side here because I don’t like hamilton, it’s just he was the wronged party and I’m for justice.

          1. Me too.

            Even in the extremely unlikely event that the result was to be changed, I do agree that nobody really wins, Massa would not get the true worth or experience of a championship, 15 years after the event, but in my opinion, he’s 100% doing the right thing in pushing for some sort of justice.

            I just absolutely do not believe people above suggesting if they were Massa, they’d be letting it slide.

        2. My point was something else: I said Massa is working with two claims, one that he was the ‘moral champion’ because he could/should/would have won in Singapore 2008 (which is actually a complete unknowable), the other that were the result to be annulled, like you suggest, then he’d be the winner of the WDC.

          Put it this way: had Hamilton been ahead when Piquet crashed, Massa’s ‘moral champion’ claim vanishes and he’s left with just saying the race should be annulled and he, Massa, conveniently is ‘rightful winner’ of the 2008 WDC. Who would find that reasonable? Nobody. So his actual claim to the title depends heavily, if not entirely, on the fact he was ahead when Piquet crashed. But that’s spurious. You can’t adjudicate that he would definitely nor probably have won after 14 laps of a 61 lap race – one in which Massa actually later span and his team mate crashed out. I mean, that’s why we watch races, because we don’t know the outcome! It’s nonsense. But that nonsense insinuation, which he repeats, is the only real justification for trying to convince everyone that the race should have been annulled (which has never happened because one team or driver cheated: no precedent) and he therefore would have had more points.

  5. I will also not comment on this topic and i think its intresting to see what will happen of this, dont think there will be any revisits but there might be some “damage by negligence”

  6. Agree 100% with Vasseur about not changing the results of a race (or a championship) even 15 minutes after its over.
    Yes I think Hamilton would and should have won the 2021 championship and didn’t because of Masi’s invention of FIA regulations. But no I didn’t think it should be appealed and changed. Why? Because Verstappen didn’t deserve that (even if he did deserve to be penalized more stringently at various points during the season): awarding a championship and then taking it away due to someone else’s fault really benefits nobody. Hamilton was aware of that and declined to appeal.
    Massa clearly has no such problem, though.

    1. David, I hate it when results get changed after the race is over, although it is inevitable sometimes in motor sport, when car gets to scrutineering and they discover it wasn’t carrying sufficient ballast or the ride height was too low, for example and the car has to be disqualified. I think there is less excuse though for changes due to tardiness of the stewards taking too long to decide that someone had committed a driving infringement and adding a penalty two hours after the grandstands have emptied. I also don’t like the added time penalties but that’s another story.

      I think 2019 is sllightly different because it was the last laps of the last race of the season, had a profound impact on the WDC, and yet it wasn’t an argument about whether or not either driver had committed a foul, and race control seemed to be making up the rules as they went along. Really though, once the chequered flag had fallen, it was pointless arguing further.

      1. You’re clearly talking about 2021, there was no title fight in 2019, not for first place at least.

  7. Couldn’t have less to do with Vassuer really could it.

  8. pizza_pazzo2004
    23rd August 2023, 21:33


  9. Renault acts changed the whole race outcome, it’s not a matter of only beneficting themselfs. It’s like an arranged result in other sports, and to be honest in any other sport that race would be cancelled straight away.

    1. in any other sport that race would be cancelled straight away.

      Name a sport in which more than two participants compete at the same time, on the same playing field that would exclude that entire round’s result if one participant was found to have cheated.

      Comparing with football, tennis, baseball or such where only two participants compete with each other in isolation of all others in the series/league is not a comparison.

      1. It doesn’t even have to be more than 2 competitors. If one cheats, the other wins by default. You don’t disqualify both. Massa would *never* have been 2008 WDC. If the FIA act during the season and take away Alonso’s victory then Hamilton wins by 2 more points. If they wait ‘til after the season has finished (which seems to have been the approximate gist of Bernie’s now-retracted comments) then it’s too late to take away Hamilton’s title. Plus, injuring an uninvolved 3rd party in order to compensate a plaintiff is just not feasible in a legal sense.

  10. Although nobody likes this, unavoidably the results of a race may have to be changed a few hours after the flag, due to all kinds of mishaps and tricks. But it really makes no sense to change a result, no matter how unfair, so many years afterwards. And yes. I would have preferred Felipe Massa to have the 2008 WDC but anyway it makes no sense to me now.

    Most penalties in civil law have an statute of limitation. If you are not caught in five years after tax evasion (for example) in most countries, you are scot-free.

    I do not know the F1 regulations in detail but I am a bit surprised that apparently there are no limitations. For people who knows: according to the F1 normative, is it possible to change a result after such a long time? Which are the time limits for a change? (if any). Thank you.

    1. Melanos, I cannot point you to an exact regulation anywhere, but from memory of when results have been disputed in the past, there is some deadline on when you can protest an individual race result with a view to getting points changed. I think it is something like: race on Sunday, appeal had to be lodged by end of Monday so that FIA could hold adjudication on Tuesday or Wednesday.

      For the end of season WDC placings, I think that once the trophy is presented at the end of year dinner ceremony in Paris, after that you cannot appeal the results or final standings. I think that rule was being quoted in 2021, when people were asking if Mercedes would appeal the results.

      But like I said, that’s just from memory. I cannot find it written down anywhere.

  11. Seems the sensible and only route to take to me. Best we all stop talking about it. After all it is just about getting attention.

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