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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
McLaren caught in Ferrari spy row
Lewis Hamilton's McLaren leading Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari at the French Grand Prix
McLaren and Ferrari have a rivalry going a long way back
McLaren are embroiled in a spying row following claims one of their leading staff illegally received information from arch-rivals Ferrari.

McLaren suspended a "senior member" of their design team after learning he had "personally received technical information from a Ferrari employee".

The man in question is understood to be chief designer Mike Coughlan.

McLaren said on Wednesday that no other employee had access to the information and that the team had not benefited.

Coughlan was suspended after Ferrari sacked former team manager Nigel Stepney following an internal investigation.

Ferrari believe Stepney stole parts and gave technical information to rivals.

Italian police are investigating Stepney after Ferrari filed a formal complaint with the Modena district attorney, although no charges have been brought.

McLaren can confirm no Ferrari intellectual property has been passed to any other members of the team or incorporated into its cars

McLaren statement
"We have proof that Stepney had been supplying technical information to a McLaren employee," a Ferrari spokesman said.

"A search was carried out of the (McLaren) engineer's house, where we found this information," he added.

"This is a very serious situation. We are talking about a lot of information being given to a prominent McLaren engineer. We are not talking about rumours or speculation."

606: DEBATE

McLaren said in a statement on Wednesday: "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 has in the meantime openly disclosed these matters to [F1 governing body] the FIA and Ferrari and sought to satisfy any concerns that have arisen from this matter.

"In order to address some of the speculation McLaren has invited 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."

Nigel Stepney pictured during practice for the 2006 German Grand Prix
Stepney joined Ferrari from Benetton in 1992 as chief mechanic
McLaren's actions are a clear attempt to prevent any potential further action by Ferrari against them, which could potentially include an appeal against some of their results this season.

Coughlan and Stepney worked together at the Benetton team in the early 1990s and later at Ferrari's old UK design studio, which was based in Surrey until 1997.

Stepney has said Ferrari are waging a "dirty tricks campaign" against him.

His lawyer said last month: "Nigel wishes to make clear that he has nothing to do with this and is not guilty of anything."

The development is highly embarrassing for McLaren, whose boss Ron Dennis periodically makes a point of pointing out the nefariousness of rivals who he claims have been caught trying to spy on the team.

McLaren and Ferrari have a long and difficult relationship, and there is an atmosphere of mutual distrust between the two outfits.

The situation may also prove a distraction from McLaren's attempt to win the British Grand Prix this weekend and strengthen their lead in the world championship over Ferrari.

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton is 14 points clear of team-mate Fernando Alonso in the title chase, with Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen three and five points behind the Spaniard.

Stepney joined Ferrari from Benetton in 1992 as chief mechanic, rising to the post of race and test technical manager during the team's period of domination between 2000 and 2004.

He moved to a factory-based role earlier this year after voicing his dissatisfaction over the direction of the team following Michael Schumacher's retirement and Ross Brawn stepping down as technical director.

SEE ALSO
The man Hamilton should fear
04 Jul 07 |  Formula One


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