Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa's legal team have initiated legal proceedings against Formula One officials and the governing body FIA, alleging that a 'conspiracy' denied him the 2008 Formula One championship, according to Reuters.
The legal action seeks substantial damages for the alleged manipulation that cost Massa tens of millions of euros in lost earnings and bonuses.
In a formal 'Letter Before Claim,' Massa's lawyers have stated that the Brazilian driver was deprived of the championship title through actions at the highest echelons of the sport.
The letter was sent to Formula One's CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. It was dated August 15 and came from the London offices of Enyo Law.
"Simply put, Mr. Massa is the rightful 2008 Driver's Champion, and F1 and FIA deliberately ignored the misconduct that cheated him out of that title," the letter claims.
Massa, now 42, is seeking redress for substantial financial losses resulting from the alleged conspiracy. The precise extent of his losses is yet to be fully quantified, but his legal team suggests they could exceed 'tens of millions of Euros'.
The legal notice emphasises that these financial losses don't encapsulate the broader impact on Massa, including his moral and reputation damage.
The controversy hinges on the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, where Massa was leading when Nelson Piquet crashed his Renault into a wall.
The resulting safety car benefited Piquet's teammate, Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race.
Massa's race was hampered by a pitstop error and Lewis Hamilton eventually clinched the championship by a single point.
The 'crashgate' scandal erupted in 2009 when Piquet revealed that Renault team bosses had instructed him to crash deliberately. Renault was subsequently banned.
This admission raised suspicions about the legitimacy of the 2008 championship outcome.
Ignited by Ecclestone
Massa's legal action gained further traction from a recent statement by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
In an interview in March Ecclestone stated that he and former FIA president Max Mosley were aware of Piquet's crash at the time but hadn't acted.
"We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal," said Ecclestone to F1-Insider.
"I still feel sorry for Massa today. He was cheated out of the title he deserved, while Hamilton had all the luck in the world and won his first championship."
This revelation led Massa to seek legal advice.
"Mr. Massa was the victim of a conspiracy committed by individuals at the highest level of F1 together with the FIA and Formula One Management," the Brazilian's lawyer wrote in the letter.
The legal notice warns that unless a satisfactory response is provided within 14 days, Massa's legal team anticipates initiating legal proceedings in the English courts without further notice to the concerned parties.
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