Lewis Hamilton lost a title in 2021 with more than three kilometers to go, but also won one in 2008 with less than a kilometer to go. The 38-year-old Briton may lose that title now that Felipe Massa has taken serious action on the controversy surrounding crashgate, in which Nelson Piquet junior deliberately crashed in Singapore. Massa has put together a team of more than seventy lawyers, and the trust among the legal team is quite high.
Massa finished outside the points in the relevant race in Singapore after a fiasco in the pit lane, while Hamilton took six crucial points with his third place. In the end the difference was only one point between the two drivers. Massa believes, with the knowledge that was present among the key figures at the time, that the Grand Prix should have been canceled, and then Massa would have been crowned world champion. Massa’s legal team previously opened the ball with a Letter Before Claim. ‘The FIA and FOM have asked for more time. That is the current status,” lawyer Bernardo Viana told the Brazilian branch of Motorsport.com. “We have confidence in our communication with them, but if we feel that they are taking too much time or that the final response is not satisfactory, we will take further steps.”
Large team chasing justice
Massa decided to take further steps after Bernie Ecclestone previously announced that Formula 1 bosses were indeed aware of the incident, but did not intervene to avoid controversy. ‘When I first spoke to Felipe Massa about this issue, just after Bernie Ecclestone’s interview, before we received any further information, it was immediately striking how many jurisdictions there are. We will have to consider which jurisdictions apply and which is most favorable. We have put together a team with different specializations. This team has analyzed the case and put a legal strategy in place, and we have great confidence in that,” said Viana. According to Viana, that team consists of more than seventy people.
The goal is clear: to claim the world title: ‘The goal is to take home the cup, not to get money. To achieve this, a lot of work must be done and significant measures must be taken. Many of these measures revolve around obtaining information. We want everything that happened in 2008 and 2009 to come to light. We are confident in the evidence we already have, but we understand that there is still a lot of information that is not clear. The fans deserve to know what happened. We’re going to dig up everything we need to dig up in the hunt for the World Cup. That’s the important part of the strategy.’
Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet may be called upon, the father of the crashed Nelson Piquet junior, who already discussed the incident in 2008 with then race director Charlie Whiting, and not much later also with then FIA president Max Mosley. However, both Whiting and Mosley have now passed away. ‘We don’t expect any support from anyone, not from Ferrari or anyone else. We are sticking to our strategy. However, Ferrari’s support would be welcome, also because they also lost the title to Felipe. Even for the Tifosi it would be nice if Ferrari supported us, but so far we haven’t noticed that, so we just keep working.”
Long process to take over title from Hamilton
Viana does not expect any results for the time being: ‘A case like this will take a number of years, and we are prepared to deal with it, that is no problem. We always deliver as quickly as possible, but the ball is now in the court of the FIA and Formula 1. They will determine whether this matter will be resolved quickly or not.’ If Massa and his team of lawyers are successful, Hamilton could lose one of his seven titles. ‘There is nothing against Hamilton. If I were him, I personally wouldn’t want a title with an asterisk behind it and all the scandals surrounding it,” says Viana. ‘He always advocates for justice, so it is practically impossible for him not to defend Felipe’s case. He has always been very correct in his statements, so I don’t expect him to stop defending justice in sport now that it is against him.’
Chances of success are estimated to be high
‘The odds are high.’ When asked whether the title is a possibility or a probability, the clear answer is: “A probability.” Nelson Piquet junior, who crashed in Singapore in 2008, does not want to get too involved in his compatriot’s case. ‘He has to do because he wants to do. Who am I to judge that? I’ve already told my side of the story, but what he does next is entirely up to him. “I’m not in his shoes and I don’t know what he went through or what he heard.”