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Former driver Massa says he's suing F1 and FIA over crash he claims cost him the 2008 title

SAO PAULO (AP) — Former driver Felipe Massa said he's filed a lawsuit in London against auto racing governing body the FIA, series owner Formula One Management and Bernie Ecclestone to try and claim the 2008 title.

Massa added on Monday he was also seeking a minimum of $82 million in damages, a document obtained by The Associated Press showed. That amount included prize money he lost and other potential deals he would have obtained as a F1 champion.

Massa has claimed since last year he was the “rightful” 2008 champion due to the incident known as “Crashgate.” The 42-year-old Brazilian, who never won the drivers' championship, was runner-up to Lewis Hamilton by one point.

Former Ferrari and Williams driver Massa said in a statement his case would be heard at the King’s Bench Division of the High Court.

His decision came after months of preparatory steps that included his lawyers asking auto racing bodies to reply to his public allegations of a breach of contract.

“I always said I was going to fight until the end,” Massa said in the statement. “Since the FIA and FOM decided not to do anything, we will seek to right this historical injustice in court. The matter is now for our lawyers and they are fully authorized to do whatever is necessary so justice in sport is served.”

His allegations relate to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, where Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed deliberately to help then-Renault teammate Fernando Alonso win the race.

The Renault team was eventually punished but the results stood in the 15th race of 18 that year. Massa never got closer to the title.

Last year, former F1 boss Ecclestone said in an interview with website F1 Insider that he learned through the course of 2008 that Piquet Jr. crashed deliberately. He added he chose not to investigate the incident until the season ended, when it was too late to change the standings.

Piquet Jr.’s crash came when Massa was in front in Singapore. A safety car was brought in, which squandered his lead and gave Alonso a clear advantage as he was the only driver who had already made a pit stop to refuel. Massa went on to finish out of the points in 13th place after a calamitous pit stop, while Hamilton finished third in that race.

Massa’s filing said he wants “a declaration that the FIA acted in breach of its own regulations in failing to investigate the circumstances of the crash promptly in 2008” and “a declaration that if the FIA had not acted in breach of its own regulations, it would have canceled or adjusted the results of the Singapore Grand Prix with the consequence that Mr Massa would have won the drivers’ championship in 2008.

"The defendants’ actions caused significant financial loss to the claimant,” the document added. News about the race-fixing scandal involving Piquet Jr. emerged the following year.

The driver’s filing also said the FIA's failure to promptly investigate Crashgate “constituted a most serious form of wrongdoing.”

Ecclestone told the British Press Association he agreed the case should go to court.

“If he had asked me, I would have said it was the complete right thing to do, to sue, and to let an English judge decide what is right and wrong," Ecclestone said. "I cannot say anything about the outcome and what will happen. From his point of view, it is better that an English judge comes up with a verdict. It will be of more help for him.”

The FIA told the AP it will not comment.

The AP has also asked FOM for comment.

Massa said in an interview with the AP in August that he had more evidence of wrongdoing to support his case. He also said then that he was considering filing other cases related to the same incident in other countries.

Massa was met with silence in the paddock at the last Brazilian Grand Prix, as his case against the FIA and FOM loomed. At the time, he claimed he had a final deadline of Nov. 15 to get answers from auto racing bodies before taking any action against them.

“Many drivers do support me in this, but they don’t want to speak. I don’t regret any of this, justice is a bigger good here,” he said then.

Jean Todt, a former team principal at Ferrari during Massa's tenure and an ex-president of the FIA, said in an interview with Italian newspaper “La Stampa” in December that he also believed the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix should have been canceled due to Crashgate.

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AP reporter James Ellingworth contributed from Duesseldorf, Germany.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing