Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

What we have learned about Massa's £64m F1 court action

Felipe Massa’s decision to go to court over the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 world championship is unprecedented.

Felipe Massa

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Almost one year on from revealing that he was considering legal action over F1 and the FIA’s handling of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix ‘crashgate’ controversy, Massa has put his money where his mouth is in seeking redress.

The Brazilian has sprung into action after revelations last year from then F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone that grand prix racing’s chiefs were aware early on of Nelson Piquet Jr having crashed deliberately in Singapore to help Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso win.

Knowing that something was amiss prior to that year’s F1 season finale, and especially the end of season FIA prize gala where championships are officially awarded, means there was plenty of time for a proper investigation to be conducted and appropriate action taken.

Massa believes that if the FIA had acted in the way he thinks they should have done, the result of the Singapore GP would have been changed - and he, not Lewis Hamilton, would have ended the year as champion.

The arguments surrounding the controversy have long been discussed, but the process of going legal means that more specific details of the case have been revealed.

Autosport has seen the British High Court documents lodged by Massa’s legal representatives and they offer a fascinating insight into the legal arguments at play – and what outcome is being sought.

Nelson Piquet Jr., Renault R28 crashes into the wall

Nelson Piquet Jr., Renault R28 crashes into the wall

Photo by: Sutton Images

The £64 million question

When the story first broke last year that Massa was considering legal action over what happened in 2008, it was very much focused on trying to get the title outcome overturned.

As Bernardo Viana, from the Sao Paulo Vieira Rezende Advogados law firm that represents Massa in Brazil, told Autosport last September: “The objective is to bring the trophy home. It's not financial.”

It was unclear at the time, however, as to how the world championship outcome could be overturned because the FIA statutes are pretty definitive in laying down that once the official trophies have been handed out at the end of season gala, then there are no grounds for overturning.

And that indeed appears to have been the conclusion, because the court papers make no reference to seeking removal of Hamilton’s maiden F1 title and awarding it to Massa. Instead, the court action is all about the damages that Massa suffered as a result of what he says was the wrong actions of the FIA and F1.

It outlines that Massa not only lost a €2 million (£1.7 million) bonus for not winning the championship, but it cost him in terms of the salary he could command in subsequent years – both in terms of as a driver and in other roles relating to F1 and motorsport – as well as sponsorship and commercial opportunities.

While the court documents say that the exact final sum will be determined by “expert evidence”, it states that its best estimate of pre-interest losses is £64 million.

Beyond seeking financial compensation, Massa wants a declaration from the FIA that it acted in breach of its own regulations in failing to investigate the circumstances of the Singapore crash.

Furthermore, he wants a declaration that if the FIA had not acted in breach of its own rules, then it would have cancelled or adjusted the results of the Singapore race – which would have meant Massa would be champion.

Bernie Ecclestone visits the paddock

Bernie Ecclestone visits the paddock

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Following the rule book

Massa’s action is fuelled by his and his lawyers’ belief that the FIA and F1 chiefs did not act correctly in investigating and dealing with Renault’s conspiracy after the 2008 Singapore GP.

With it having emerged that then F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Max Mosley knew about Nelson Piquet Jr’s actions before that year’s season finale in Brazil, the argument is that they should have responded immediately.

The court documents allege that the FIA had a contractual obligation to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing – based on the FIA Statutes that demand it upholds the “the interests of its membership in all international matters concerning automobile mobility and tourism and motor sport.”

The Statutes furthermore say one of the FIA’s objectives is in: “Promoting the development of motor sport, enacting, interpreting and enforcing common rules applicable to the organization and running of motor sport events.”

Massa also cites the FIA’s International Sporting Code which says the Code was created so that the governing body would exercise its power “in a fair and equitable manner” and that it will “never be enforced so as to prevent or impede a competition or the participation of a competitor.”

Then there is the famous 151c disrepute clause that demanded sanction for “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.

Plus, there is 179(b), which says that if a ‘new element’ is discovered relating to an event, then the stewards must convene to investigate it.

On all these counts, Massa says that if the FIA had followed what the rule books says, then, once it was aware that Piquet Jr had crashed deliberately, it was beholden on it to convene the stewards to investigate it.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Massa also argues that Ecclestone must have been aware of the provisions laid down in the regulations, so it was wrong of him to allegedly decide not to take action.

Furthermore, Massa goes on to suggest that he was the victim of a conspiracy by FOM and the FIA to prevent the Singapore crash becoming a scandal that damaged F1.

He argues that the FIA should have investigated the crash properly at the time, and even delayed the end of season FIA Gala if that was felt necessary.

The right thing to do

The matter will now be one for a judge to decide, and even Ecclestone himself has backed Massa’s move in going legal.

Speaking to the Press Association, Ecclestone said: “If he had asked me, I would have said it was the complete right thing to do, to sue, and to let an English judge decide what is right and wrong. I cannot say anything about the outcome and what will happen. From his point of view, it is better that an English judge comes up with a verdict. It will be of more help for him.”

Read Also:

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article How Bearman's F1 debut will help Mercedes on its Hamilton replacement call
Next article Sauber to address F1 pit issues after second disastrous stop

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe