Stepney update 5: McLaren denies wrongdoing
After revelation that McLaren received confidential technical data obtained from the Ferrari Formula One team, McLaren is publicly asserting that it has made no use of the information, which allegedly was obtained illegally from former Ferrari director of development Nigel Stepney.
Hours ago, McLaren – currently leading the Formula One constructor’s championship race – issued a statement asserting that, “McLaren has completed a thorough investigation and can confirm that no Ferrari intellectual property has been passed to any other members of the team or incorporated into its cars.”
McLaren is taking every possible measure to protect itself against what could be a public relations disaster. It has, according to the team’s statement, invited the Formula One sanctioning body, the FIA, to “conduct a full review of its cars to satisfy itself that the team has not benefited from any intellectual property of another competitor.”
The revelations, which have include the recent acknoledgement by McLaren that a search of the home of a senior McLaren engineer located documents which were the property of Ferrari, have provided soap opera drama to a Formula One season that has, in most respects, been dominated by Team McLaren. Ferrari, in contrast, has struggled throughout the year.
What McLaren has not said, however, is even more intriguing than what it has said. Though denying that any of the apparently illegally obtained information was used by it, McLaren has not said how it made that determination. Presumably, it would be impossible to ascertain with certainty that the information had not been used without knowing the content of the information with some particularity. In which case, either the information obtained from Ferrari has, in fact, been compromised or the credibility of the McLaren statement is suspect.
Moreover, the motives that may have prompted either Stepney or the McLaren engineer to engage in the conduct have not been explained. Stepney’s contract with Ferrari was up at the end of this year and it is known that he had been in talks with Honda about a position with that team. What was in it for either Stepney or the McLaren employee, if the allegations are true, is unknown – but people don’t do things like this without the expectation of some advantage. To have offered that advantage to Stepney, it would seem that the McLaren official must have been very high in that organization. Unless, of course, he did not act alone.