Felipe Massa told ‘you are the champion’ as he bids for Lewis Hamilton’s title

Ferrari hero Felipe Massa has revealed that he is often told by strangers that he is the true 2008 F1 world champion. The Brazilian missed out on the title to Lewis Hamilton by just one point but is now aiming to get the result overturned after former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone suggested the sport’s chiefs refused to take action following alleged foul play at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

Massa appeared to be well on his way to securing maximum points at the Singapore Grand Prix as he started in pole position and extended his lead in the early stages of the race. But the 42-year-old saw his race derail when Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on lap 14.

Massa pitted under safety car conditions but was then penalised after Ferrari released the driver early while his fuel hose was still in his car. The South American ultimately left Singapore empty-handed after finishing 13th, with Hamilton claiming six points courtesy of a third-place finish.

Piquet Jr later alleged that Renault had asked him to deliberately crash to improve the prospects of his team-mate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was languishing in last when the crash happened but eventually won the Grand Prix.

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The ultimate controversy came earlier this year when Ecclestone suggested that F1 bosses knew at the time the crash had been deliberate but decided against dishing out sanctions to protect the F1 brand. If the governing body had taken action, one of their options would have been to make the race result null and void. Hamilton would have lost his six points and Massa would have gone on to win the title.

“The reaction is very, very supportive,” Massa told RacingNews365. “Everywhere I go, in the airport, the supermarket, the restaurant, people stop me to say that they are on my side and that I need to fight because what happened to you is not part of the sport and that I am the champion.

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“I have amazing support from different people in the country, but not even just Brazil, sometimes in the United States. I have support and Europe as well. Many people in the racing world, you can sometimes see they are a bit afraid to express their support for me, but there are many who back me, even inside motorsport – so I am not doing it alone.

“I’m doing it for my country because Brazil lost out by not being recognised as a champion. That could have been amazing to help motorsport grow – and we don’t have a Brazilian driver in Formula One at the moment.

“It could have been different, looking at what [Ayrton] Senna did for other Brazilians. I am not comparing myself with Senna, but we know how important that championship would have been for the country.”

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