Months After $500,000,000 Fraud Trial, Bernie Ecclestone Slapped With Lawsuit Over Lewis Hamilton’s Controversial Win Over Felipe Massa

Published 08/18/2023, 4:31 AM EDT

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Bernie Ecclestone—F1 Supremo—the man who was once at the helm of Formula 1, leading the brand for 40 years as its Chief Executive Officer, is now one of the most disliked personalities affiliated with the sport. His rein (and his outdated vision of F1) came to an end after Liberty Media’s takeover in 2017. It’s become an accepted fact that he wasn’t the most popular in the F1 community, but last year, he got into the bad books of even UK tax authorities, that accused him of fraud. 

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Having amassed a fortune of well almost $3 billion in his 40 years as CEO, he put more than $500 million in a trust for his daughters. Sounds like a good cause, right? According to The Guardian, he didn’t declare it to tax authorities, reporting, “Ecclestone is accused of fraud by false representation after allegedly failing to declare the existence of a trust in Singapore.” Although he formally pleaded not guilty in June, he’s set for a trial in November. Additionally, he’s also been slapped with a lawsuit, not by UK tax authorities, but by former F1 driver Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa is set to challenge Lewis Hamilton for his lost glory

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The 2008 championship was one of the most closely contested battles throughout the season. In his second year in F1, Lewis Hamilton was up against Felipe Massa in his second year with Ferrari. Although the title was decided in the season’s final race, a controversy at the Singapore GP tipped the balance in Hamilton’s favor. What controversy is this? Crashgate. 

In one of the most controversial happenings in F1, then-Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr. was asked by his team to crash on purpose so that his teammate Fernando Alonso could win the race. Although it didn’t affect the championship directly, Hamilton got a better result than Massa, which ultimately contributed to Hamilton’s first championship. While discussing this incident in an interview, Bernie Ecclestone mentioned how Crashgate was a shame to F1, and had he known better at the time, he would’ve made the race results null and void.

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Ecclestone’s statements made Massa realize he could’ve won his first championship had Eccelstone stayed true to his gut. But he didn’t, and it cost the Brazilian a coveted championship. Although the official investigation for Crashgate happened only in 2009, Ecclestone told Massa that “knowledge of Crashgate was available early enough for action to be taken before the result of the championship was made final,” as reported by Motorsport.com.

What Was Lewis Hamilton’s Response to Felipe Massa’s “Robbery” Accusations After Crashgate?

Considering all this, Massa gathered a legal team and sent F1 and the FIA a letter stating how he lost glory and fortune because he was “the victim of a conspiracy.” It said, “Simply put, Mr Massa is the rightful 2008 Drivers’ Champion, and F1 and FIA deliberately ignored the misconduct that cheated him out of that title.” If Stefano Domenicali and Ben Sulayem don’t revert in two weeks, this will go to court, and Bernie Ecclestone might have another trial to add to his fraud allegations. But the 92-year-old might’ve found a way out of it.

Bernie Ecclestone has retracted his statements about Crashgate

Remember how Ecclestone thought the 2008 Singapore GP was one of the lowest points in F1’s rich history? Well, it looks as though he doesn’t believe that anymore. Or remember how he told Massa that he had conclusive evidence to take action following the Singapore GP, basically telling Massa that he could’ve been the world champion? Well, he doesn’t have any recollection of that either.

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Yes, he’s a 92-year-old, but instigating Massa to take action for the 2008 championship and retracting your statement might not be the right way to deal with this. When news about Massa’s legal action came up, Reuters approached Ecclestone to ask him about his confessions to the Brazilian. Ecclestone said, “I don’t remember any of this, to be honest. I don’t remember giving the interview for sure.” 

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Do you think Felipe Massa can do anything to claim what he lost in 2008 despite what Bernie Ecclestone said?

WATCH THIS STORY | How Fernando Alonso’s 2008 Singapore GP Win Became One of F1’s Worst Controversies – Crashgate

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

757Articles

One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Aishwary Gaonkar

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