The Guardian

Wolff watches Massa case to judge Hamilton title appeal

Giles Richards

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has indicated the team could challenge the controversial decision that cost Lewis Hamilton the 2021 world championship. Wolff acknowledged that the legal case Felipe Massa has brought against Formula One and

the FIA might set a precedent that would have a direct influence on Hamilton’s claim to the title.

Massa has taken legal action over the “crashgate” affair in 2008, when he lost the title to Hamilton by a single point. At the Singapore Grand Prix that year Massa was leading when Renault orchestrated a crash by Nelson Piquet Jr in order to benefit his teammate Fernando Alonso. During the safety car period, when Massa went into the pits Ferrari released him with the fuel hose attached, he was penalised and finished 13th.

Renault were investigated and punished but only long after the season was concluded. Massa’s case is based on the premise that F1 and the FIA knew at the time the incident had been orchestrated but did nothing. His lawyers have stated they “deliberately ignored the misconduct that

cheated him out of that title”. The Brazilian’s intent is to overturn the result of the 2008 championship to claim the title. In Singapore this weekend, Wolff acknowledged there was a potential parallel to Hamilton’s case.

“This is clearly not something that anybody saw coming, the rules are pretty clear in Formula One,” he said. “If there’s a civil case behind it, it would certainly set a precedent,

whatever it is. We are looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”

In 2021 the then race director Michael Masi’s interpretation of the rules during a late safety car period cost Hamilton the win which Max Verstappen took and with it the title. Mercedes chose not to take further legal action at the time but the subsequent FIA investigation concluded that there had been a “human error” at the time.

In reference to the potential precedent set by Massa’s case, Wolff pointedly noted the FIA had already in effect admitted culpability. “The FIA commented on the 2021 race, with a clear statement,” he said. “So that’s why we are looking at it with interest.”

With F1 back in Singapore this weekend, the attention has focused on whether this might be the best chance for any team to finally end

Red Bull’s unbeaten run. The street circuit is least suited to their car and there is a sense that a challenge might emerge from Ferarri, Mercedes and Mclaren, with the world champion, Verstappen, noting he expected the competition to be “very tight”.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz topped the first practice session, which was interrupted three times by large lizards sauntering across the track. In the night running of FP2, which remained lizard-free, Ferrari were once more on top with Sainz in front of Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell in third. Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Pérez could manage only eighth and seventh.

Sky Sports F1, 2pm; highlights Channel 4, 7.30pm Sky Sports F1, 1pm; highlights Channel 4, 5.30pm