Lewis Hamilton gives blunt response to Felipe Massa’s legal action over 2008 F1 title

Massa started legal proceedings last week, eyeing substantial damages following the 2008 ‘Crashgate’ scandal

Kieran Jackson
in Zandvoort
Thursday 24 August 2023 15:56 BST
<p>Lewis Hamilton was tight-lipped over Felipe Massa’s legal action</p>

Lewis Hamilton was tight-lipped over Felipe Massa’s legal action

Lewis Hamilton insists he is “not focusing on what happened 15 years ago” when questioned on Thursday about Felipe Massa’s legal action over the 2008 Formula 1 title.

Massa is seeking substantial damages following the 2008 Crashgate scandal and a subsequent alleged “conspiracy” after comments earlier this year by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Hamilton, now a seven-time world champion, won his first F1 title in 2008 on the final lap of a dramatic final race in Brazil, with Massa missing out by a single point.

A formal eight-page ‘Letter Before Claim’ was sent to F1 boss Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem last Tuesday from London-based Enyo Law with the firm, acting on Massa’s behalf, alleging that the 42-year-old has been “the victim of a conspiracy committed by individuals at the highest level of F1 together with the FIA and Formula One management”.

Yet Hamilton, when asked about the case ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, remained tight-lipped.

“I’ve got a really bad memory,” Hamilton said.

“I’m really just focused on the here and now and helping the team get back to the championship. I’m not focused on what happened 15 years ago.”

Massa’s lawyers stated in their letter that the ex-Ferrari driver has lost out on tens of millions of euros in lost earnings and bonuses as a result of missing out on the 2008 title.

What was the ‘Crashgate’ scandal?

Crashgate rocked Formula 1 when the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix saw Renault’s Fernando Alonso win the race before it emerged that his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr had deliberately crashed to bring out a safety car that played into Alonso’s hands.

That safety car prompted a Massa pit stop that Ferrari mishandled, with Massa eventually finishing the race 13th while Hamilton came home third – a difference of six points, a swing which ultimately impacted the title result.

While Renault and team boss Flavio Briatore were punished in 2009 for Crashgate, the result of the race stood despite Massa’s protestations, with the FIA’s statutes making clear that overturning the classification from each season is impossible once the FIA Awards Ceremony for that year is complete, a rule set in the FIA International Sporting Code.

Ecclestone revealed in March that both he and then-FIA president Max Mosley knew of the Crashgate scandal in 2008, but refused to publicise the chain of events to avoid the sport a “huge scandal”.

The 38-year-old also gave a simple “no” response when asked about any contract updates, with his current Mercedes deal set to expire at the end of the season.

Hamilton has not won a race since Saudi Arabia in 2021, but he came close this time last year at Zandvoort before Max Verstappen came through to win his home race for the second year running.

Verstappen, who has won 10 of the 12 races so far this season and is looking to equal Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive victories this weekend, has a “high chance” according to Hamilton of winning every race until the end of the 2023 campaign.

Hamilton is targeting P2 in the drivers’ championship this season

The Mercedes star himself, however, is targeting second place in the world championship. He is currently in fourth place, 41 points behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in second.

“I think P2 [in the constructors’] is a huge achievement and something that has been overlooked if I’m completely honest,” he said, with the Silver Arrows the next-best behind Red Bull.

“Ultimately we want to win, but I’m really proud of the team and the steps we’ve made with the car.

“My goal is to make sure the team keep second in the championship and try to hunt down second in the drivers’ championship. That’s my goal – that’ll be fun.”

Verstappen has a 125-point lead in the championship heading into his home grand prix this weekend, with 10 races remaining this season.

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