LONDON: Formula One leaders McLaren reassured Ferrari yesterday that they had not used any leaked technical information from their rivals to design their own race-winning cars.
The Mercedes-powered team have suspended a senior employee, identified in Italian and British newspapers as chief designer Mike Coughlan, pending an investigation into the receipt of classified information from Ferrari.
Ferrari said on Tuesday they had taken legal action in Italy against their former technical manager Nigel Stepney and the McLaren employee, whom they did not name, “regarding the theft of technical information”.
McLaren, Ferrari's main rivals in this weekend's British Grand Prix, had said there would be no further comment after Tuesday's announcement.
However they issued a second statement a day later to dampen speculation that the revelations could affect the outcome of both the drivers' and constructors' championships, should Ferrari protest against recent results.
“McLaren have 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 the cars,” the team said in a statement.
McLaren said they had also openly discussed matters with Ferrari and the sport's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
“In order to address some of the speculation, McLaren have invited the FIA to conduct a full review of their cars to satisfy themselves that the team have not benefited from any intellectual property of another competitor,” they said.
The revelations have rocked the sport, an intensely competitive world where teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development, with claims of spying and sabotage.
Stepney, dismissed by Ferrari at the start of the week, has become the central figure in the drama.
The 47-year-old Briton, who has accused Ferrari of waging a dirty tricks campaign against him and has denied wrongdoing, fell out with his employers after technical director and compatriot Ross Brawn left at the end of last year.
Ferrari accused him of passing secrets to rivals after obtaining a warrant to search the McLaren employee's house in Britain, where they said information was found.
Stepney, who is on holiday in the Philippines with his partner and child, made clear in February that he was interested in joining another team. Ferrari subsequently moved him away from the racetrack operations. – Reuters