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Motor racing-Ecclestone says Massa is right to sue in English court

Credit: REUTERS/PAULO WHITAKER

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday Felipe Massa was right to take his fight to be recognised as the 2008 world champion to the London High Court.

Lawyers for the Brazilian former Ferrari driver announced on Monday legal action against Formula One Management (FOM), the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) and Ecclestone.

The 42-year-old is also claiming compensation for estimated financial losses of around 64 million pounds ($82 million) plus interest for missing out on the title by a single point to Britain's Lewis Hamilton.

Ecclestone told Reuters by telephone from Brazil that, had he been Massa's manager he would have advised him to take action in England.

"The best thing he could do is sue in England. He wants something straightforward so it will be straightforward. No axe to grind from anybody. So we’ll wait and see," said the 93-year-old Briton.

"It might help him if an English judge comes out and says something that’s in his favour, it would be good for him."

Ecclestone has plenty of experience of the British legal system, most recently last October when he paid 652.6 million pounds but was spared a jail term after pleading guilty to misleading Britain's tax authority about overseas assets.

In 2014 he won a High Court case brought against him by German media company Constantin Medien who had sought $100 million in damages following the sale of a stake in the sport eight years earlier.

That same year he paid $100 million to end a bribery trial in Germany.

Massa's claim has made much of an Ecclestone quote to the German website F1 Insider stating that the Brazilian should have been world champion in 2008 and was "deprived of the title he deserved" by a Singapore Grand Prix scandal.

Ecclestone repeated last year's assertion that he had no recollection of saying that and said he had tried, in vain, to find a recording.

Massa was leading that race from pole position when compatriot Nelson Piquet Jr crashed his Renault into the wall on lap 14 of 61, triggering the safety car.

Piquet's team mate Fernando Alonso went on to win, while Massa failed to score after a bungled pitstop.

Piquet revealed in 2009 that team bosses, who were subsequently banned, had ordered him to crash.

Massa wants the FIA to acknowledge it breached its own regulations by not immediately investigating the crash and cancelling the race result, which would have made him the champion.

The Paris-based FIA and London-headquartered FOM, a part of U.S. company Liberty Media, have not commented on the Brazilian's legal action.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)

((alan.baldwin@thomsonreuters.com; +442075427933;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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