More on Mike Coughlan’s and Nigel Stepney’s espionage case 

Written by David on July 04th, 2007 at 2:14 pmLast Update: July 04th, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan Formula One Espionage Case 2007As we wrote in yesterday’s post, the Anglo-German team discovered that their Chief Designer Mike Coughlan was under investigation after the perquisition of his house obtained with a search warrant from Ferrari. During the perquisition, the blueprints yielded from Stepney, Farrari’s ex mechanics coordinator, were found.

It’s an enormous scandal, never happened before in F1. With consequences that could be shattering, even with a potential exclusion of McLaren’s team from the Championship, if her guiltiness will be proved: the FIA is already examining the acts.

How it started -  The episode, that starts from Ferrari’s famous official complaint against Nigel Stepney for a presumed sabotage of both vehicles before Monte Carlo’s GP, had yesterday an unexpected development. Around 18 o’clock, McLaren released an official statement in which declared of being aware that a senior member of its technical organization was the subject of a Ferrari investigation regarding the receipt of technical information. Moreover, there was written that the team has learnt that this individual had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April. McLaren’s statement concluded with: “Whilst McLaren has no involvement in the matter and condemns such actions it will fully co-operate with any investigation. The individual has in the meanwhile been suspended by the company pending a full and proper investigation of the matter”.

The Name -  The “senior member” is Mike Coughlan, engineer, McLaren’s Chief Designer with a long past in Ferrari. The supplier of informations is Stepney. It was Coughlan who confessed, yesterday, everything to Ron Dennis; probably because he felt the pressure when Ferrari, taking a legal action in England, managed to perquisite his house and found F2007, this year’s vehicle, blueprints and specifications. At the same time, Ferrari was presenting a second complaint to the Power of attorney of Modena for disclosure of industrial secrets: espionage. It is unknown so far, against who the complaint was presented: it’s easy to think of Stepney. Whose return in Italy is expected for today and meeting with his lawyer for tomorrow. The counts of indictment for Stepney and Coughlan are so heavy that Ferrari “reserves the right to evaluate all criminal, civil implications or eventually of other nature according to the applicable norms”. The feeling is that from the interrogatories new scandals could arise,  shacking all Formula One.

Ron Dennis McLaren Formula One F1

The mystery -  First of all, has to be revealed why Stepney delivered to Coughlan F2007′s entire project (among other informations): for retaliation over Ferrari for not having promoted him in as an Engineering Director, position that he was ambitious about? Or Coughlan has been just an intermediary in order to reach McLaren’s heart? And it is true that Stepney has sold blueprints and files to others? If it turns out that Coughlan had the projects exclusively for himself, in order to acquire prestige inside his team, McLaren would be plead not guilty. Differently – such informations are very expensive: Coughlan couldn’t have had so much money – McLaren could be considered an accomplice and could risk in a sporting way (exclusion from the Championship…we’re talking about years), and in a penal one.

The (possible) scenarios – The questions are two: is it possible that Ron Dennis accepted such a risk that puts in jeopardy the reputation of his own company and of his own own life? And why Ferrari gave to Stepney full access to all of its technical information, privilege given to no more than four people in Maranello? The friendship Between Stepney and Coughlan starts from way back: they were together in Lotus in the 80′s, they’ve been together in Benetton, they arrived in Ferrari after being employed by Barnard. Now they’re together again: but for a scandal. Last annotation: the McLaren MP4/22, leader so far in the Championship, and Ferrari F2007 if compared, are completely different: but that doesn’t mean opponent’s know-how is unusable…

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