Toto Wolff eagle-eyed as Felipe Massa aims to rectify ‘injustice’

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed he is closely watching the 2008 Formula 1 season legal battle.

Intrigue surrounds the ongoing legal case involving Felipe Massa’s 2008 Formula 1 season, and Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has expressed keen interest in its developments. 

The controversial backdrop of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen secured the title, adds an intriguing layer to this story.

Felipe Massa narrowly missed out on the 2008 F1 World Championship, losing by a single point to Lewis Hamilton. 

Both drivers were competing for Ferrari and McLaren, respectively, during that season. Massa’s championship hopes took a pivotal turn during the Singapore Grand Prix when Renault ordered Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash intentionally to aid Fernando Alonso’s strategy. 

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Massa pitted for a refuel but was released with the refuelling rig still attached. 

Consequently, he finished in 13th place while Hamilton secured six crucial points for a third-place finish as Alonso claimed victory.

Interestingly, the matter was not pursued when Piquet Jr. went public with his allegations in 2009. 

However, earlier this year, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made claims that he and then-FIA President Max Mosley were informed of the incident during the 2008 season finale in Brazil but chose not to take action. 

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Ecclestone later retracted these comments, citing a lack of recollection, which prompted legal action by Felipe Massa and his legal team.

Letter Before Claims have been dispatched to the FIA and Formula 1, with a response deadline set for mid-October. 

Additionally, Preservation Orders have been sent to key entities, including Ferrari, Renault (now Alpine), former title sponsor ING, and notable individuals such as Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.

According to FIA regulations, the time frame for appealing a championship concludes shortly before the champion driver receives the trophy at the official prize-giving ceremony.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal, shared his thoughts on the matter, emphasising its potential implications for the sport. 

He remarked, “It’s interesting to follow. 

“It is clearly not something that anybody saw coming. 

“The rules are pretty clear in Formula 1. 

“Is there a civil case behind it? It will certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. 

“Yeah, we’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”

Mercedes’ and Wolff’s curiosity stems from the dramatic conclusion to the 2021 title battle when Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap at Yas Marina. 

A late crash involving Nicholas Latifi led to the deployment of the Safety Car with just five laps remaining. 

Initially, it was anticipated that the race would finish behind the Safety Car due to the limited laps left in the expected procedure.

However, a pivotal decision by then-Race Director Michael Masi altered the course of events. 

He allowed only the lapped cars positioned between leader Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen to overtake, setting up a one-lap shootout for the title. 

The standard protocol would have seen all lapped cars overtake before the restart on Lap 58, but this was impossible as it marked the final lap of the race. 

Verstappen ultimately capitalised on his fresh Soft tires, overtaking Hamilton, and securing the championship.

The FIA later acknowledged “human error” in not allowing all the lapped cars to overtake the Safety Car. 

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However, they deemed the results “final, valid, and cannot be changed.”

If Felipe Massa’s legal case results in a revision of the championship standings, Mercedes may consider its own legal action regarding the 2021 race outcome. 

Wolff noted, “The FIA commented on the 2021 race with a clear statement, that’s why we’re looking at it with interest.”