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today is May 30, 2023

Felipe Massa has kicked up a storm by questioning the FIA’s handling of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver wants to know why Formula 1’s governing body did not take action sooner over the infamous race. It was won by Fernando Alonso after his Renault team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr deliberately crashed in order to cause a Safety Car period which would benefit the team’s other car.

“The right situation is to cancel the result of that race,” Massa has said. “It is the only justice that can be done in a case like this.”

While Renault’s plan worked, it had disastrous consequences for Massa. He was leading the race but headed for the pits when Piquet crashed. There a botched refuelling pit stop by his Ferrari crew not only cost him a chance of victory, but ensured he ended the day point-less.

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault., Singapore, 2008 Feature: Crashgate – The 2008 Singapore Grand prix controversy explained That had significant implications for the championship outcome. Lewis Hamilton won the title by two points having scored six in Singapore. He ran second behind Massa before Piquet’s crash, and finished third.

Massa believes the FIA should have cancelled the result of the race entirely once it became known Renault had contrived a deliberate crash to win. Is he right? Should the FIA have handled this notorious case different – and if so, how?

The FIA World Motor Sport Council ruled on the ‘Crashgate’ controversy almost a year after it happened. They did not alter the result of the race, as by then the championship had long since concluded and the prizes awarded.

Massa is seeking to discover whether the FIA had the opportunity to expose the conspiracy before the formal end of the 2008 season, and therefore could have handled it differently and potentially issue a decision which could have altered the outcome of the world championship.

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The WMSC called Renault’s actions a breach of “unparalleled severity”. It imposed a series of penalties on the team and the staff members directly involved in ‘Crashgate’. Team principal Flavio Briatore was given an unlimited ban from participation in the championship (which he later succeeded in overturning) and technical director Pat Symonds was banned for five years. The team was also told it would be permanently disqualified from the championship if it committed a comparable breach before the end of 2011.

But the result of the disputed race stood. If the FIA had the opportunity to change it – as Massa now suspects they did – what should they have done about the outcome of one of F1’s most controversial grands prix?

I say

Deciding a fair sporting penalty for Renault’s actions in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix would have been difficult enough had it been done in the immediate aftermath of the race. Once the outcome of the championship was known, deciding a fair judgement is arguably made trickier still by the knowledge it had a bearing on the result.

But Singapore 2008 is not like Jerez 1997, Adelaide 1994 or the Suzuka controversies of 1989 and 1990. This wasn’t a collision between championship contenders which decided the destiny of the title – Massa was affected indirectly.

That, for me, is the key point as far as it relates to Massa. Yes, he was hard done by, but Piquet’s crash need not have caused him to fall behind Hamilton, which was the reason his championship hopes took a hit in Singapore.

There are no obvious precedents for this case. However it’s hard to imagine that, had the FIA acted earlier, they would have allowed Renault’s win to stand. At the very least the team should have had its result in that race confiscated.

The idea the entire race result should be nullified strikes me as illogical, as it would punish the nine blameless teams in addition to the guilty one. Had Renault set out to purposefully disadvantage Massa it would be a different matter entirely, but that is not the case – he was the unfortunate collateral damage in this sordid episode.

You say

Was the FIA right not to alter the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix or should they have revised the standings after Renault’s dubious tactics were exposed? And if so, how? Pick the option which best fits what you think they should have done.

How should the FIA have handled the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix?

  • No opinion (2%)
  • Declared the race result null and void (11%)
  • Disqualified Renault from the championship and confiscated the drivers' points (19%)
  • Disqualified Renault from the championship, but allowed the drivers to keep their points (22%)
  • Disqualified Renault from the race and confiscated the drivers' points (24%)
  • Disqualified Renault from the race, but allowed the drivers to keep their points (4%)
  • Left the result unchanged (17%)

Total Voters: 89

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