Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone feels that although Lewis Hamilton is tied with Michael Schumacher as far as world championships are concerned, he doesn’t deserve to have his name in the history books.
Bernie thinks that Hamilton got “lucky” while Felipe Massa was “cheated” during the the 2008 F1 world championship.
This year is remembered fondly by Hamilton fans, as it was his first world championship. The Stevenage-born driver famously eclipsed Massa by the barest of margins (1 point).
However, history could have been written differently was it not for Renault’s antics at the Singapore Grand Prix, where his team instructed Nelson Piquet Jr to crash on purpose as it would help teammate Fernando Alonso win the race.
Ecclestone reveals insider information
Ecclestone and FIA president at the time Max Mosley were reportedly made aware of this allegation at the time, but chose not to share it with the public till the conspiracy unravelled the following year.
“Max Mosley and I were informed during the 2008 season what had happened in the race in Singapore,” he told F1 Insider.
“Piquet Junior had told his father Nelson that he had been asked by the team to drive into the wall at a certain point in order to trigger a Safety Car phase and such to help his teammate Alonso.
“Piquet Junior was worried about his contract extension, so he was under a lot of pressure and agreed.
“We decided not to do anything for now. We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal.
“That’s why I used angelic tongues to persuade my former driver Nelson Piquet to keep calm for the time being.”
Eventually, people knew what really happened as Piquet Jr went public about the entire scandal after getting dropped by Renault after the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Renault was found to be guilty of the charges with the two thrown out of F1.
However, Massa’s fate was directly affected as a result. He had been leading the race till Nelson Piquet Jr crashed.
Ferrari driver Massa then paid the price for a poorly executed pitstop exit, leaving with the fuel hose still attached to his car.
He was handed a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release as a result.
Controversy at the FIA awards ceremony?
This eventually led him to finish outside the points that day, and he did miss out on the title to Hamilton by just the one point.
“Back then, there was a rule that a World Championship classification after the FIA awards ceremony at the end of the year was untouchable,” Ecclestone said.
“So, Hamilton was presented with the World Championship and everything was fine.
“According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions. That means it would never have happened for the World Championship standings.
“Then Felipe Massa would have become World Champion and not Lewis Hamilton.
“I still feel sorry for Massa today. He won the final at his home race in Sao Paulo and did everything right.
“He was cheated out of the title he deserved while Hamilton had all the luck in the world and won his first championship. Today I would have arranged things differently.”
Following the events of that year, Massa failed to ever challenge for another championship, while Hamilton added another six to his collection.