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Last Updated: Friday, 14 September 2007, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
McLaren exposed by spy evidence
By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Spa-Francorchamps

McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso (left) and Pedro de la Rosa are implicated
Alonso (left) and Pedro de la Rosa are mentioned in the FIA report
McLaren received a systematic flow of information from a spy within rivals Ferrari for nearly three months this year, the FIA has revealed.

Drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa were aware of the information.

It was the possession of this "highly sensitive" data that led the FIA to fine McLaren 49.2m and deduct their constructors' championship points.

The information came to McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan from Ferrari chief mechanic Nigel Stepney.

The data McLaren received over the three-month period concerned the Ferrari car's brakes, weight distribution, aerodynamic balance and tyre inflation.

In a 16-page document, the FIA said e-mails showed that test driver De la Rosa and reigning world champion Alonso had been aware of the Ferrari data.

All the information from Ferrari is very reliable

Pedro de la Rosa in an e-mail to Fernando Alonso on 25 March

"The emails show unequivocally that both Mr Alonso and Mr de la Rosa received confidential Ferrari information via Mike Coughlan.

"Both drivers knew that this information was confidential Ferrari information and that both knew that the information was being received by Coughlan from Nigel Stepney," the report states.

In what is being viewed as the most damning section of the report, the FIA has published an e-mail exchange between De la Rosa and Alonso.

"All the information from Ferrari is very reliable," De la Rosa wrote to Alonso on 25 March in an exchange about the Ferrari's weight distribution.

"It comes from Nigel Stepney, their former chief mechanic - I don't know what post he holds now.

"He's the same person who told us in Australia that Kimi (Raikkonen) was stopping in lap 18. He's very friendly with Mike Coughlan, our chief designer and he told him that."

These are the main points raised in the statement on the FIA website:

  • Coughlan had more information than previously appreciated

  • Information included sensitive technical information and sporting strategy

  • De la Rosa requested and received secret Ferrari data

  • The information was shared with Alonso

  • Intention by McLaren personnel to use data in their own testing

McLaren boss Ron Dennis revealed after the decision that he had tipped off the FIA about evidence that ultimately led to sucha huge fine.

"Once I became aware that new evidence might exist, which I did on the morning of the Hungarian Grand Prix (5 August), I immediately phoned the FIA to keep them informed," he said.

And asked if he thought the e-mails influenced the FIA judgement, Alonso told BBC Radio 5live: "I don't think so, not at all."

The extent of the information Coughlan received about the Ferrari goes far beyond what was revealed at a first meeting of the FIA's world motorsport council in July.

At that time, the FIA decided not to punish McLaren because there was no proof the information had been used "in such a way as to interfere with the running of the FIA F1 world championship".

But the new evidence persuaded the world council to change its verdict at Thursday's meeting.

De la Rosa revealed plans to test Ferrari's weight distribution in McLaren's simulator, plans that were later abandoned.

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It was revealed that Alonso agreed it was "very important" that McLaren tried out the gas Ferrari were using to inflate their car's tyres.

It also emerged that De la Rosa had asked Coughlan for specific details of Ferrari's braking system, and that the designer revealed to the test driver "we are looking at something similar".

The document appears to explode the view that this was only a case of two rogue employees using the information to find better jobs at other teams, and that the confidential information had not been circulated within McLaren, as the team contended at the first world council meeting.

The world council said it had decided to inflict such a heavy punishment on McLaren because "there was an intention on the part of a number of McLaren personnel to use some of the Ferrari confidential information in its own testing".

It added: "The evidence leads the WMSC to conclude that some degree of sporting advantage was obtained, though it may forever be impossible to quantify that advantage in concrete terms."

Dennis insisted that his personal future with McLaren had "never been in doubt" and dismissed any thought that the size of the fine could threaten his team's future.

"Firstly, we will effectively still have as an offset the revenue from the points earned to date," said Dennis.

"That will effectively halve the size of the cheque we have to sign, if we ultimately accept this fine.

"But, as you can see if you read our accounts, we turn over roughly US$450-500m a year, and we are debt-free, so obviously we are a very strong company with phenomenal growth."

McLaren are still to decide whether they will appeal against the judgment.

SEE ALSO
McLaren 'came close to exclusion'
14 Sep 07 |  Formula One
F1 gets back to business
14 Sep 07 |  Formula One
McLaren hit by constructors' ban
13 Sep 07 |  Formula One
F1's face-saving ruling
13 Sep 07 |  Formula One


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