Thursday is the day of media activities for drivers and teams. During the press conferences prior to the São Paulo Grand Prix, a subject that has been circulating in the automotive media – especially in Brazil – came to light: Felipe Massa’s claim to be recognized as the category champion in the 2008 season.
Those present at the interview were Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, from Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas, from Alfa Romeo, Logan Sargeant, from Williams, and Lewis Hamilton, from Mercedes. Hamilton has a particular interest in the topic. He became champion in the last corner of the championship that Massa fights to have recognized as his – even though it has nothing to do with what happened in Singapore that year, the real reason for the discussion.
When asked what they thought about Massa’s bid for the 2008 title, the drivers preferred to avoid the controversy. After seconds of deafening silence, Sainz responded with just a simple “I don’t think”, and handed the floor over to Hamilton. The seven-time champion, clearly embarrassed, was also curt, “honestly, I’m not paying attention to it. I would say the same [que Sainz]”. Encouraged to say something, Leclerc, Bottas and Sargeant remained quiet.
The topic is quite thorny for Formula 1. Changing the result of a championship 15 years after its end is something unprecedented in the category, which involves countless pieces on a complex board and could open up gaps for other potentially similar cases to gain attention. which the category certainly does not want. The drivers are aware of the hornet’s nest they would be stirring by giving a response by taking sides in the situation – even those from Ferrari, who, in theory, would “benefit” from an eventual recognition of Massa as 2008 champion.
Massa’s search for justice
If you haven’t followed the news in recent months, the summary of the story is as follows: after a statement by Bernie Ecclestone in which the former Formula 1 boss stated that he and Max Mosley, then president of the FIA, were aware that the 2008 Singapore race was manipulated by Renault (the infamous episode in which Nelsinho Piquet crashed on purpose to help Fernando Alonso win that race) before the end of that season, and that the race was not canceled to avoid damaging the image of the sport.
Massa ended up being the biggest loser in that race. He was leading when the safety car was forced, he anticipated his stop and was the victim of a mistake by Ferrari, which returned him to the track last after a problem with refueling. The points lost that day would be decisive in losing that year’s title, which went to Lewis Hamilton, then at McLaren.
Since Ecclestone’s speech came to light, Massa began a legal journey in several countries seeking to be recognized as the champion of that championship. The case is pending in European courts and is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.