Felipe Massa has revealed his 'absolute certainty' that future Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso was in on arguably the greatest race-fixing scandal in F1 history – the 2008 Singapore-gate saga that has cost the heads of two of the paddock's most high-profile and longest-standing figures and very nearly led to Renault being banned from competition.
As he continues to recover from the fractured skull and serious head and eye injuries he sustained in a freak accident during qualifying at the Hungaroring back in late July – when a suspension spring flew off the rear of compatriot Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP and struck the following Massa on the helmet as he travelled at almost 200mph, knocking him momentarily unconscious and sending him crashing into the tyre barriers – the Paulista has already been outspoken in his comments on the Marina Bay episode, arguing that it 'robbed' him of the 2008 drivers' crown.
The 28-year-old wound up missing out on glory to McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by a single marker at the end of a thrilling and heartbreaking Brazilian Grand Prix finale in front of his adoring home fans at Interlagos just under twelve months ago, and had been leading comfortably in Singapore when Nelsinho Piquet crashed – deliberately, it now transpires, under instruction from disgraced former Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, thereby necessitating a safety car period that enabled Alonso to triumph from a disadvantaged grid position.
A botched pit-stop by Ferrari as the Scuderia
endeavoured under pressure to keep Massa at the head of the field as practically the entire field – Alonso aside – dived for the pit-lane at once saw him leave the pits with the fuel rig still attached to his car, and condemned him to 13th position at the chequered flag, well outside of the points.
Whilst both Symonds and Briatore were banned from the top flight for their leading roles in the conspiracy – respectively for five years and indefinitely – and Piquet was conversely guaranteed immunity from prosecution by governing body the FIA for divulging all that he knew to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), Alonso has always maintained that he was unaware of the plot, an argument accepted by the WMSC. But not, it would seem, by Massa.
“It was the team and Nelson, but Alonso was part of the problem,” the eleven-time grand prix-winner is quoted as having told Brazilian media. “He knew. We cannot know it, [but] of course he knew – absolute certainty.”
In a statement on Ferrari's official website, Massa his since sought to clarify his comments – and whilst making a point of his enthusiasm for working with Alonso in 2010, he stopped short of retracting his suspicions altogether.
“What I've said is the outcome of a hunch I've had,” he reasoned, “and is not based on any concrete evidence. The FIA World Council announced that there was no indication that Fernando may have been informed of what had happened, and I respect this outcome.
“Obviously I'm very disappointed about what transpired last year in Singapore. I have already said several times what I thought about it, and now it's time to close that chapter and to look to the future. What is certain is that this episode will not mar in any way the relationship I'll have with Fernando when we will be team-mates.”
Massa will return to the F1 paddock for the first time since his accident this weekend, having been granted the honour of waving the chequered flag at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix in his home city of São Paulo, a duty carried out in previous years by such luminaries as football hero Pelé and supermodel Gisele Bündchen.