Motor body publishes emails in McLaren spy case

Formula One’s governing body (FIA) published emails between McLaren drivers on Friday that it said proved the team had made use of information leaked from title rivals Ferrari.

McLaren were stripped of their 2007 constructors’ points on Thursday and fined a record $100-million after a hearing into a spying controversy. The decision effectively handed that championship to Ferrari.

However, drivers’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton and McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso were allowed to keep their points after the FIA wrote to them offering an immunity in return for providing evidence.

The ‘spy saga’ began in July when a 780-page dossier of Ferrari data was found at the home of now-suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who has been accused of receiving it from Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney.

In a 15-page document released at the Belgian Grand Prix, the FIA said that while Hamilton had replied that he had no information to offer, Alonso and test driver Pedro de la Rosa had both submitted “highly relevant” emails.

“All the information from Ferrari is very reliable. It comes from Nigel Stepney, their former chief mechanic—I don’t know what post he holds now,” De la Rosa emailed Alonso on March 25 in an exchange about the Ferrari’s weight distribution.

“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.”

Police analysis

A few days earlier he had asked Coughlan: “Hi Mike, do you know the Red Car’s weight distribution? It would be important for us to know so that we could try it in the simulator.”

On April 12, De la Rosa emailed Coughlan asking for details of Ferrari’s braking system.

The FIA said an analysis by Italian police of telephone, SMS and email contacts between Stepney and Coughlan had also been submitted by Ferrari to the meeting of its World Motor Sport Council (WMSC).

This, it said, strongly indicated that “the transmission of confidential Ferrari information from Stepney to Coughlan was not limited to the 780-page dossier” and had been far greater than thought at an initial WMSC hearing in July.

At that first hearing, McLaren escaped punishment because of insufficient evidence that they had benefited from the information. The team had argued that nothing on their car derived from Ferrari data.

The governing body said Italian police had subsequently found that a total of 288 SMS messages and 35 telephone calls appeared to have passed between Coughlan and Stepney during the period from March 11 to July 3.

Coughlan was suspended by McLaren on July 3 after a search of his home in southern England.

The number of contacts between the two increased considerably during private tests carried out by Ferrari in Malaysia at the end of March 2007 and in the run-up to and during the day of grands prix in Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain and Spain.

The FIA cast doubt on McLaren’s assertion that Coughlan and Stepney were acting on their own account and planning to move to another team.

It found that De la Rosa had requested and received secret Ferrari information and shared it with Alonso.

“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,” the statement said.—Reuters

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