Mercedes: Massa F1 case could set precedent amid Abu Dhabi 2021 questions

Mercedes is watching developments in Felipe Massa’s action over the 2008 Formula 1 championship with ’interest’, amid hints it could trigger a review of the 2021 Abu Dhabi outcome.

The Safety Car leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, and the rest of the field

Massa has begun a legal process to try to overturn the 2008 F1 title outcome, after believing that a conspiracy robbed him of the chance to win the crown.

The Brazilian has suspicions that a cover-up by the FIA and F1 chiefs in the way it handled the Crashgate controversy from that year’s Singapore Grand Prix cost him the championship.

In letters before action sent to the FIA and F1, it was argued that the loss of the title subsequently hurt him with a damaged reputation and loss of earnings.

Last week, Massa’s Brazilian lawyer said that he believed they had a strong case and were adamant that their mission was to overturn the 2008 championship outcome, which was won that year by Lewis Hamilton.

Bernardo Viana said: “The objective is to bring the trophy home. It's not financial. To get there, several measures will be taken with different aims, some to obtain information and others to obtain statements.

"We want everything that happened in 2008/2009 to come to light.”

Massa’s actions in trying to pursue a legal challenge over a lost championship has prompted some discussion about whether or not a successful outcome for him could open the door for other controversial FIA decisions to be contested.

And the most obvious is the 2021 championship, which swung in a controversial final round at Abu Dhabi after the FIA’s handling of a late safety car restart opened the door for Max Verstappen to snatch the race win and title on the final lap.

Speaking at the Singapore Grand Prix, Toto Wolff said that Mercedes was keeping a watching brief over developments in the Massa case – because there was scope for legal precedent to be set.

Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“Well, interesting… interesting to follow,” said Wolff, when asked by Autosport for his thoughts on the matter.

“[It’s] clearly not something that anybody saw coming. The rules are pretty clear in Formula 1. It’s a civil case behind it. It would certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. We’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”

Pushed further to clarify whether or not that would mean a potential challenge to the 2021 world championship outcome, Wolff replied: “The FIA commented on the 2021 race with a clear statement. So, that’s why we’re looking with interest.”

It is understood that Wolff’s remark about the FIA comments relates to the governing body admitting that it did make mistakes in its handling of the Abu Dhabi GP.

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In a statement issued following a meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in March 2022, when it published its report in to the events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the FIA owned up to getting things wrong.

“The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error lead [sic] to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves,” said an FIA statement.

At the moment, the FIA statutes declare that the highest authority that can make a ruling on matters is the independent International Court of Appeal - and that any persons involved in a championship agrees to abide by this.

Should Massa’s legal action show that FIA rulings can be challenged outside of the jurisdiction of the governing body, then that could be enough to prompt Mercedes to consider a further review of the 2021 Abu Dhabi events.

At the time it elected to abandon going ahead with an official appeal because it felt there was little to be gained in taking the matter further.

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