Stepney leaves Ferrari, McLaren suspends employee

Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney, whom the team recently instigated legal proceedings against, has left the Maranello squad. Ferrari never specified exactly what the complaint was but it seems Stepney has been dismissed after an internal...

Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney, whom the team recently instigated legal proceedings against, has left the Maranello squad. Ferrari never specified exactly what the complaint was but it seems Stepney has been dismissed after an internal disciplinary hearing, although he still faces court action in Italy.

There have been several theories in regard to the situation, including speculation about industrial espionage and sabotage, mostly circulating around unconfirmed allegations of a mysterious 'white powder' found in or around Ferrari fuel tanks prior to Monaco.

Stepney, who has been linked with a move to Honda, quickly refuted any wrongdoing once the charges were made and has maintained that he will be cleared. He is currently still on holiday and is expected back in Italy in the near future, when it's likely he will hold a press conference.

As if all that wasn't curious enough, McLaren today released a statement saying it has suspended an unnamed technical employee due to a Ferrari investigation. It was not confirmed at the time that it was related to the Stepney case but espionage was once again the theme.

"McLaren became aware on the 3rd July 2007 that a senior member of its technical organisation was the subject of a Ferrari investigation regarding the receipt of technical information," the statement read. "The team has learnt that this individual had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April."

"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. No further comment will be made."

Since McLaren made the statement, Ferrari also confirmed its actions and the link between the two. "Ferrari announces it has recently presented a case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team with the Modena Tribunal, concerning the theft of technical information," the Scuderia stated.

"Furthermore, legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued concerning the engineer. This produced a positive outcome. Ferrari reserves the right to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature, according to the applicable laws."

Neither McLaren nor Ferrari have named the engineer in question but allegedly documents belonging to Ferrari were found at his house during a police search today. McLaren designer Mike Coughlan is rumoured to be the accused but for the moment that has not been confirmed.

See also:
Stepney denies any wrongdoing

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren