SINGAPORE — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is taking a keen interest in Felipe Massa’s attempt to have the 2008 Formula One championship result overturned, believing it would set a precedent that could also change the 2021 title result, in which Lewis Hamilton controversially missed out on the crown.
In August, Massa started legal action against Formula One and its governing body the FIA, seeking substantial damages resulting from an alleged “conspiracy” that denied him the title.
He has since confirmed that he will “fight to the end” to be declared 2008 world champion instead of Hamilton.
The case hinges on the outcome of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, which Massa was leading until Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his Renault into the wall on lap 14 of the 61-lap race.
The crash triggered a safety car period that benefited Piquet’s teammate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the grand prix while Massa failed to score after a bungled Ferrari pitstop.
Massa lost the 2008 to Hamilton title by a single point.
“It’s interesting,” Wolff said of Massa’s legal challenge. “Interesting to follow.
“Clearly not something that anyone saw coming. The rules are pretty clear in Formula One, there’s a civil case behind it.
“It will certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. Yeah. We’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”
Wolff confirmed that his interest in Massa’s case is linked to Mercedes’ own experience at the season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which Hamilton was beaten to that year’s title by Max Verstappen after FIA race director Michael Masi overruled the correct procedure for finishing the race under the safety car.
An FIA investigation into Masi’s actions during the final laps of the race said “human error” was responsible for the incorrect application of the safety car procedure but that Masi acted in good faith.
Asked if the 2021 result could also be reopened if Massa is in any way successful with his legal challenge, Wolff said: “And the FIA commented on the 2021 race with a clear statement.
“So that’s why we’re looking at it with interest.”
Speaking in Singapore on Thursday, Hamilton said he was not aware of anyone from Massa’s legal team contacting him about the 2008 result and that he was not devoting any time to seeing either that result or 2021 overturned.
“I don’t know if anyone has been in touch with us, but my thoughts haven’t changed since the last time the question was asked,” Hamilton said.
“I’m really not focused on what happened 15 years ago or two years ago, I’m focused on right now how to help my team winning another championship and the future.”
Massa sought legal advice this year after former F1 CEO 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 in Singapore but had not acted.
“I have nothing against Hamilton. This battle is about a race that was rigged,” Massa said in an interview, 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 added.
Ecclestone, 92, told Reuters 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 from Formula One.