A few weeks ago, one of the top team members at Ferrari was investigated by the police. The reason behind it was Ferrari themselves, initiating an investigation after finding something suspicious at the Monaco Grand Prix. Nigel Stepney, the former team manager, had asked to go on leave, much the same as Ross Brawn had done, but was refused. There was speculation that this new event was some kind of retribution towards him, for sulking about that refusal.
It now appears that the investigation is much more serious than that. Chief Designer at McLaren – Mike Coughlan – has been suspended after his involvement in the conspiracy. Apparently there is proof that Stepney has been providing a McLaren employee with certain documents containing technical information, and a search of his house proved that Mr Coughlan did have some documents concealed.
At the moment, the investigation is ongoing. Stepney has been sacked, and Coughlan is suspended until the matter is cleared up. Italian officials are looking into the matter and treating it with the utmost seriousness.
McLaren have released a statement saying they have completed a thorough investigation and are convinced that no other team members are involved and that none of the technical information actually made it onto the cars. Clearly, they do not want to be sued by Ferrari further down the line, for having copied their technology.
Ferrari are keeping relatively tight-lipped about the entire thing, whilst Nigel Stepney’s lawyer has said that he is claiming to be innocent and had nothing to do with the whole thing. He also goes on to say that Stepney believes it to be a “dirty tricks” campaign, designed so that he will not be able to get another job in Formula 1.
This is a really bad time for an investigation like this to take place, with both McLaren and Ferrari having such a great battle on the racetrack. It is sad to see that such underhanded things can go on off the course and it takes some of the emphasis off the great achievements of Hamilton, and Raikkonen these past few races.
If the case continues, and McLaren are found to be using stolen information, it could also spell trouble for their championship campaign. The FIA are not above taking points away from drivers, or completely cancelling their season’s successes so far.
It looks like for now, we will have to wait and see what happens, but I will certainly being keeping an eye on this case.