Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said on Thursday he will “fight to the end” to be declared 2008 Formula One world champion instead of Britain’s Lewis Hamilton.
Reuters revealed last week that the Brazilian had started legal action against Formula One and the governing FIA seeking substantial damages resulting from an alleged “conspiracy” that denied him the title.
“We’re going to fight to get the title,” Massa told Brazilian website GE in an interview, making clear his case was about more than financial compensation. “I’m here to make it clear things didn’t happen fairly.”
Massa, who retired in 2017, was leading the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix when fellow-Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashed his Renault into the wall on lap 14 of the 61-lap race. The crash triggered a safety car that benefited his teammate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win while Massa failed to score after a bungled pitstop.
Hamilton, racing for McLaren at the time and now an honorary Brazilian citizen, eventually beat Massa by a point for the first of his record-equalling seven championships. Michael Schumacher, Massa’s former Ferrari teammate and close friend of the Brazilian during his racing career, is the only other driver to have won seven titles.
Formula One had a rule at the time that the outcome of a championship could not be changed after the end of season awards ceremony. Massa sought legal advice this year after former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told a German website in March that he and former FIA president Max Mosley had been aware in 2008 that Piquet crashed deliberately but had not acted.
“I have nothing against Hamilton. This battle is about a race that was rigged,” said Massa, adding he would “ideally” be declared the 2008 champion and that the Singapore race should have been cancelled. “That world title was ours, and it was taken away by manipulation,” he said.
Ecclestone, 92, told Reuters last week he could not remember saying the key quotes attributed to him. Mosley, who worked closely with Ecclestone, died in 2021 while FIA race director Charlie Whiting, another key figure, died in 2019.
Piquet revealed in 2009 that he had been told to crash by Renault team bosses, who were subsequently banned. “I think it’s important for us to fight to get the justice of the sport,” said Massa, who did not win another race after the 2008 season and suffered a near-fatal head injury in Hungary in 2009.
“We fight for the title, and that’s our fight where we go to the end.”
Hamilton told reporters at the Dutch Grand Prix that he was concentrating on helping his Mercedes team in their current championship battle. “I’m not really focused on what happened 15 years ago,” said the Briton.