The 2008 Crashgate scandal looms over the sport despite happening over 15 years ago. Alongside other scandals like the Mclaren-Ferrari Espionage in 2007, it’s an unfortunate and embarrassing event that shows us just how corrupt F1 can be under wraps. After new evidence has emerged, Lewis Hamilton could be stripped of his Maiden title in 2008 and Felipe Massa legally crowned the 2008 World Champion.
What does Crashgate have to do with the 2008 World Championship race?
This entire matter relates back to the Singaporean Grand Prix in 2008 where Nelson Piquet Jr, son of World Champion Nelson Piquet, was instructed by the then Renault outfit under Flavio Briatore to deliberately crash his car. The crash was carefully positioned and timed as such to give his then-teammate Fernando Alonso an advantage when it came to pit-stops under a yellow flag.
The teams plan worked and Fernando Alonso won the race, but at what cost? One year later In 2009, the Renault team was threatened with expulsion from the sport, the team boss Flavio Briatore was banned indefinitely from F1 and technical director Pat Symmonds was banned for five years due to his involvement. A now-defunct rule saved the Singaporean Grand Prix from ever being investigated again as Bernie Ecclestone, F1 chief at that time, says:
“Back then, there was a rule that a world championship classification after the FIA awards ceremony at the end of the year was untouchable. So Hamilton was presented with the trophy and everything was fine.”-Bernie Ecclestone
He then went on further to say that public relations and the image of the sport was more important than investigation as just a year previously the McLaren-Ferrari debacle took place. The cheating scandal at Singapore would really damage the public image so Bernie pulled strings behind the scenes to keep parties involved quiet for everyone’s sake.
“We had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions.
“That means it would never have happened for the championship standings. And then Felipe Massa would have become world champion and not Lewis Hamilton.”-Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone’s sudden revalation to german media publication “F1 Insider” has seen Felipe Massa pursue further legal action; he believes that revealing to the public that both FIA President at the time and F1 Chief were both aware of “Crashgate” back in 2008 but did nothing is massive and sad at the same time. He said this when asked about the matter:
“But after 15 years, we hear that the [former] owner of the category says that he found out in 2008, together with the president of the FIA, and they did nothing [so as] to not tarnish the name of F1.
This is very sad, to know the result of this race was supposed to be cancelled and I would have a title.”
Does Felipe Massa have any chance at winning this case?
Sadly, despite all of the evidence being in the public domain, it’s unlikely that the results of the 2008 World Championship will be rescinded but in F1 you can never just know for certain. There has never been a case like this in the history of the entire sport and who knows, maybe there is a strong legal basis for refactoring the results even 15 years later.
Felipe Massa will have to go through the legal body that the FIA states is the absolute authority on all sports rulings, the International Court of Appeal to make his case. He is allowed this right but I think it’d be really difficult for a ruling body to take away a World Championship from a driver who had nothing to do with the scandal. Massa, however, states his opinion and says this:
“We have already seen other situations happening in sports, such as Lance Armstrong, who was proven to have doped, and he lost all the titles. What is the difference?”-Felipe Massa
F1 is this strange sport where one driver can cause another to crash and not receive a penalty due to it being a “racing incident”. It’s unlike any other sport which makes this case even trickier. In Lance Armstrong’s case, he used performance-enhancing drugs to make himself ride faster. It doesn’t get more clear-cut than this. In any case, whether Felipe Massa is crowned 2008 World Champion or not, it’s sad to see how deep the corruption can be in F1.