Ferrari Formula One boss Fred Vasseur trod carefully when asked to comment on the team’s former driver Felipe Massa seeking compensation from the sport for missing out on the 2008 championship.
Lawyers for Brazilian Massa last week notified Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali and Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the governing FIA, of the intent to claim compensation.
They argued Massa had lost out on tens of millions of euros in likely earnings and bonuses as a result of Renault team bosses fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with a deliberate crash.
Massa had been “the victim of a conspiracy committed by individuals at the highest level of F1 together with the FIA and Formula One Management”, the lawyers said.
An FIA spokesperson last week acknowledged receipt of “correspondence” from Massa’s representatives and said the matter was under review. There has yet to be a response from Formula One.
“As you can imagine I don’t want to make any comment on this matter. I have a good relationship with all the stakeholders of this story and it’s quite tricky,” Vasseur told reporters on a video call ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.
“For sure the circumstances were completely exceptional.”
Massa, who had led the race before compatriot Nelson Piquet’s crash, ended up losing the championship by a single point to Britain’s Lewis Hamilton who was then racing for McLaren.
The scandal, widely known as ‘Crashgate’, did not emerge until a year later and led to Renault team bosses being banned.
Massa sought legal advice this year after the German website f1-insider quoted former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone in March as saying he and former FIA president Max Mosley knew in 2008 that Piquet’s crash was deliberate but had not acted.
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Ecclestone, 92, told Reuters last week he cannot remember saying the key quotes attributed to him. Mosley died in 2021.
Vasseur said teams wanted to know the result of races at the chequered flag and not after the podium celebrations had happened.
“I don’t want to make any comment but for sure it would be strange,” he said of any potential re-investigation of what happened 15 years ago.
“I’m not a big fan to change the result of the race 15 minutes after the chequered flag.”
The Frenchman, who was Renault team boss in 2016, took over at Ferrari in January and was not in Formula One in 2008.
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