Toto Wolff has said Mercedes is following Felipe Massa’s legal case against Formula One and the FIA over his 2008 championship defeat “with interest,” saying the result will “set a precedent.”
Massa is pursuing a legal bid to overturn his loss to then-McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, arguing the results of that year’s Singapore Grand Prix should be canceled due to the ‘Crashgate’ scandal where Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed to help his team win the race.
F1’s former CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, was quoted by f1-insider.com in March as saying the FIA “had enough information in time to investigate the matter”, although he more recently told Reuters he did not recall giving the interview.
In an interview with The Athletic last month, Massa said he wants F1 and the FIA to “fix what was not fair for the sport and for the people.” He sent a letter before claim to both F1 and the FIA, and has recently extended the deadline for their response until Oct. 12.
It would be unprecedented for legal action to lead to an historic F1 result being overturned. According to the FIA’s own regulations, the results of an F1 season are final once the trophy is handed out at the end-of-season prize giving.
But Mercedes F1 chief Wolff said in Singapore on Friday the case is “interesting to follow” and revealed the team was following it with close interest.
“(It’s) clearly not something that anyone saw coming,” Wolff said. “The rules are pretty clear in Formula 1, there’s a civil case behind it.
“It will certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. We’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”
At least some of that curiosity stems from the fact that in 2021, Hamilton missed out on a record-breaking eighth world championship in controversial fashion after the FIA race director, Michael Masi, failed to implement the regulations correctly.
Max Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the last lap of the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi to win the championship. According to the FIA’s regulations, the race should have ended behind the safety car instead of resuming for that single lap.
Mercedes initially protested the result, but withdrew its appeal ahead of the FIA gala in Paris. The FIA later issued a report when it ruled that Masi acted made a “human error” but acted in “good faith.”
The report also stated: “The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula 1 World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed.”
Wolff was asked about his curiosity in the Massa case given what happened in Abu Dhabi, the similarity of the management of a race influencing the result of the championship, and whether it would be something that could be reopened.
“The FIA commented on the 2021 race with a clear statement,” Wolff said. “So that’s why we’re looking at it with interest.”
Hamilton said at the Dutch Grand Prix he was “really just focused on the here and now” with Mercedes when asked for his thoughts on Massa’s legal case, adding: “I’m not really focused on what happened 15 years ago.”
(Lead image: Andrea Diodato/NurPhoto via Getty Images)