Was Felipe Massa "robbed" of an F1 world title?
Although many know the famous phrase "Is that Glock?" Could manipulated events prior to the 2008 Brazilian GP costed Felipe Massa the WDC?
Felipe Massa is subjectively one of the best drivers in Formula 1's history to have never won a world title. Being dubbed the "39 second champion" for holding the 2008 drivers world championship for that allotted time, before the famous words "Is that Glock going slowly? It Is! That's Glock!" were uttered as Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the last lap of the last race of the seasons calendar to win the championship by just one point.
Many people point to Glock's lack of defense as a point that the 2008 season was "rigged" and Lewis was handed the title at that very moment. But can we look back further than that to see if there were moments which were deliberately altered which would have had a dramatic effect on the championship?
September 28th, 2008, the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix is about to begin. With Felipe Massa on pole, setting a blistering lap time eight-tenths ahead of second place Lewis Hamilton. For the entirety of the race Massa had led comfortably with no competition, with Lewis running comfortably behind.
Given the race were to have ended with Massa winning and Hamilton coming in second place, the standings would have swapped, with Massa taking the lead of the championship, with 86 points to Hamiltons 84 points. And given the results we saw in Japan, China, and Brazil were unchanged, we would have seen the first Brazilian world champion to win the title at Ferrari.
Lap 14, midfield driver Nelson Piquet Jr. slams his Renault R28 into a wall, bringing out a safety car no one had expected. The crash itself will be discussed in a future article, but the basics of it are that the Renault ING F1 team ordered Piquet to crash to put Alonso into a position to win, which, in the end, he achieved.
Due to the unfortunate timing of this safety car, many teams did not carry enough fuel on booard to withstand the safety car period, causing some drivers to enter the pit lane early to fuel. These drivers, being Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa, and others, came in for routine fueling.
Unfortunately for Massa, a faulty signaling in Ferrari's pit box signaled him to be released early, causing him to leave the box with the fuel hose still attached to his car, essentially ending his race right there and then.
This rare occurrence more than likely would have not happened at any other time but that one, as when Kimi went into the box moments after, the signal appeared to be fully functional once again. This now leads us into speculating, was this Massas fault and could he have come back from this?
The short answer to both these questions would be no and yes. This moment signaled a massive change in the title that in a law abiding world should not have happened. As the acts of Nelson Piquet Jr. were properly dealt with, unfortunately nothing more could be done. If the race results were to have been deleted, which subjectively seems like a very rational thing to be done, Massa would be crowned drivers world champion. But unfortunately this was not the case.
Whether Massa could have done more past this race is a difficult thing to gauge. His results of seventh, second, and first in the following three races were indeed impressive and, in the case of his second and seventh, although they could technically be improved upon, the races themselves were done as best as he could, meaning not much could have been done.
These three results trumped Lewis' twelve, first, and fifth positions, clearly showing the damage Singapore did to the championship. So looking back at these facts, can we truly decide whether or not the championship was robbed from Massa? That is up for you to decide, but subjectively the facts seem to indicate that this was indeed robbery, with Massa being the deserved winner of the 2008 WDC.