Stepney now claims he helped Ferrari & McLaren spy on each other
Nigel Stepney, by now one of the least credible figures in Formula One’s recent past, has waited until after the FIA has concluded the discipline of McLaren to worm his way, once again, into the sport’s headlines.
This time, in effect, he’s claiming he was spying for both McLaren and Ferrari, with the aid of disgraced McLaren chief engineer Mike Coughlan.
Here’s Stepney’s latest story: Stepney claims that he got confidential McLaren information from Coughlan. But, he only got it verbally, so there is no record and no proof that anything he says is true. He also claims he shared it with Ferrari insiders, again only verbally and with no proof. Here’s the quote:
“I got weight distribution, I got other aspects of various parts of their car, and I was Ferrari’s employee at the time. The question is: did I use the information, did I talk about it? I spoke to some people about it. I can’t prove it, there are no e-mails or anything; points about the fuel and the differences between the teams were discussed inside.
"I got information on them. Ferrari got off lightly. I got information about when they were stopping. I got weight distribution, I got other aspects of various parts of their car and I was Ferrari’s employee at the time. I was aware of certain stuff they [McLaren] were doing at tests, fuel levels for example. I think Ferrari should have been docked points personally.
“But as well as McLaren having an advantage, did Ferrari have an advantage? I think so. It looks like information was flowing only one way. No one has been balancing the argument, no one has asked the question."
Stepney claimed in his remarks that the information he obtained came from Coughlan.
Stepney previously flat-out denied giving any information to Coughlan.
Stepney’s claim that he didn’t pass information to Coughlan was undercut by the statements of McLaren team drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa to the FIA outlining in detail the rapid response Coughlan was able to get to questions they had about Ferrari information earlier provided to Coughlan from a Ferrari team member.
Stepney also appears to have been caught in another lie, this time one to the FIA’s director, Max Mosley. The BBC reports that it has seen a letter sent by Stepney to Mosley in which he claims that he communicated doubts about a Ferrari floor pan design to the FIA. McLaren later complained about the design and the FIA changed the rules to ban it. It turned out that the McLaren complaint was based on information Stepney had passed to Coughlan.
Stepney is now claiming that he provided that same information to Peter Wright, FIA technical director, and race director Charlie Whiting, first by telephone and then by e-mail and that he only told Coughlan about it later.
But Mosley has stated, during the FIA hearing, that "[i]f there was any hint of whistle-blowing, it was not in those documents.
He had the opportunity to whistle-blow at the beginning. He did not. Instead, he communicated the information to McLaren. The fact is that he did not give us information, despite being in touch with our people."
Ferrari team boss Jean Todt had some comments, as well, suggesting that Stepney had turned out to have what amounts to mental issues:
“He was a difficult character. He was not an easy person, but he was a good professional." When Ross [Brawn, former designer] left he was probably aiming for a stronger position than the one we were suggesting for him. He was calling into us and saying, ’I don’t want to come to races any more.’
"Then, after a good night, the emotion would calm down and he would say, ’OK, I am happy to come’.
"We could not change our organization every week, so I said, ’Finished. He will not come any more.’
"In this sense I did defend him, it is true, but I was never expecting the guy to lose his head. He lost his head, that’s all. Unfortunately, sometimes you have people who lose the sense of things and it’s a shame because we all have some personal responsibilities.
"You should have some limits, some discipline and he did not know how to place limits on himself and the problem is that there is a high price to pay."
Source: BBC News