Singapore Grand Prix: Mercedes following Felipe Massa 2008 title case ‘with interest’

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstapen speak after the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Max Verstappen (right) clinched his maiden world title in 2021 after a last-lap overtake of Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Mercedes say they are following “with interest” former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s attempt to overturn the 2008 world championship result.

Wolff said the Massa case was “not something anyone saw coming”.

He added it will “certainly set a precedent” and they were “looking from the sidelines with curiosity”.

Wolff suggested that the Massa case could have ramifications for the controversial end to the 2021 title fight.

Hamilton was on course to win the championship two years ago for Mercedes while leading rival Max Verstappen going into the final laps of the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

But race director Michael Masi failed to apply the rules correctly during a late safety-car period, allowing only some lapped cars to un-lap themselves rather than all, as the rules dictated.

The race was re-started for one final lap, on which Verstappen passed Hamilton to win the race and the title.

Wolff said: “[Governing body] the FIA commented on the 2021 race, with a clear statement. So, that’s why we are looking at it with interest.”

The FIA said in its report into Abu Dhabi that “human error led to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves”.

The report added that Masi had acted “in good faith” and ruled that the result of the world championship was “valid and final”.

Masi was removed from his role by the FIA and has since left the organisation to return to his native Australia.

Massa’s case is based on the events and aftermath of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in which Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashed. This triggered a safety car that benefited his team-mate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race.

During the safety-car period, Massa’s Ferrari team bungled a pit stop and he left the pits with the fuel hose still attached to the car.

From leading the race, the incident dropped Massa down the field and he failed to score a point. He ended up losing the title to Hamilton by one point in the final race of the season in Brazil.

Massa’s case rests on reported remarks by former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone earlier this year, in which he said that he and then FIA president Max Mosley knew Piquet’s crash was deliberate and covered it up.

The FIA eventually took action a year later, when Piquet said publicly that he had been told by team bosses to crash deliberately.

Mosley instigated an investigation which resulted in Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and chief technical officer Pat Symonds being banned from F1 for several years.

Massa’s lawyers said this week that they had sent preservation notices to Ferrari and former Renault team officials with a view to potential court action.

Recipients included Briatore, Symonds and former Renault sporting director Steve Nielsen, a spokesperson for Massa said.

Symonds has been rehabilitated and is currently chief technical officer of F1, while Nielsen is sporting director of the FIA.

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