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Ferrari have confirmed they instigated legal action against a senior McLaren engineer in both Italy and England, saying this concerns "the theft of technical information."

The Maranello-based outfit dismissed Nigel Stepney after initiating legal actions against him, claiming he was involved in sabotage and espionage against Ferrari.

And today McLaren revealed they have suspended a senior member of their staff after discovering he unlawfully obtained technical material belonging to Ferrari.

In a statement issued this evening, the Italian team said: "Ferrari announces it has recently presented a case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team with the Modena Tribunal, concerning the theft of technical information.

"Furthermore, legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued concerning the engineer. This produced a positive outcome.

"Ferrari reserves the right to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature, according to the applicable laws."

Autosport.com understands the search already took place today in the McLaren engineer's house, with police finding the incriminating material, which then led McLaren to suspend him.

As the affair looks set to dominate paddock talk in the forthcoming race, an FIA spokesman said they are monitoring the situation.

"We have received information on this matter which we are examining at the moment," he said today.

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McLaren have suspended a senior member of their staff amid suspicions that he unlawfully obtained technical information belonging to rivals Ferrari.

With former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney currently at the centre of a legal enquiry about sabotage of Ferrari's cars prior to the Monaco Grand Prix, there had also been talk of a possible espionage investigation.

That scenario was confirmed on Tuesday when McLaren issued a statement revealing that a member of their staff is now investigated by Ferrari as possibly obtaining technical secrets from a Ferrari employee.

It has not been clarified yet, however, whether or not this affair relates specifically to Stepney.

McLaren have said they will cooperate with the investigation and have suspended their unidentified member of staff while that process is ongoing.

"McLaren became aware on [today] that a senior member of its technical organisation was the subject of a Ferrari investigation regarding the receipt of technical information.

"The team has learnt that this individual had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April.

"Whilst McLaren has no involvement in the matter and condemns such actions, we will fully cooperate with any investigation.

"The individual has, in the meanwhile, been suspended by the company pending a full and proper investigation of the matter.

"No further comment will be made."

Stepney has maintained his innocence of all charges, and has vowed to prove his innocence when he returns from a mid-season holiday later this week.

Ferrari confirmed this morning that they had dismissed Stepney following an internal investigation
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Mike Coughlan, McLaren's chief designer, is the senior engineer suspected of espionage against Ferrari, autosport.com has learned.

The 48-year-old Briton is suspected of unlawfully obtaining technical material belonging to Ferrari in collaboration with Ferrari's Nigel Stepney.

In a search conducted by the police at Coughlan's house today, documents allegedly belonging to Ferrari were found, leading McLaren to suspend him while Ferrari said they reserve the right to pursue further legal action.

Coughlan joined McLaren as chief designer in August 2002 after four years with the Arrows F1 team. His initial role there was chief designer, and in the last couple of years he was promoted to technical director.

Coughlan was also head of the design office at Benetton in 1991, and later in his career worked for the Ferrari Design and Development office in England. He also worked as race engineer at Tyrrell in the mid-1990s.
 

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That should make some interesting gossip in the next few weeks.

I'm sure it goes on all the time, but normally they don't get caught.
 

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That should make some interesting gossip in the next few weeks.

I'm sure it goes on all the time, but normally they don't get caught.
I'm inclined to agree with you Arch, whether it happens at this level though I wouldn't like to say - that's probably why both teams have to be seen to be setting an example!
 

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I'm inclined to agree with you Arch, whether it happens at this level though I wouldn't like to say - that's probably why both teams have to be seen to be setting an example!
Ferrari are obviously pee'd off, hence they sacked their man. As McLaren are the supposed beneficiary, they have to be seen to do the decent thing, and of course deny any knowledge of it because they know there's nothing to link them to it, as the recipient was briefed to say he was working on his own if he got caught. Not that I'm a cynic;)

On the BBC Sport website it says that Stepney reckons Ferrari are waging a dirty tricks campaign against him. Hard to see how, when someone at Mclaren has got Ferrari docs and computer files.
 

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Begs the question...

'Is this why McLaren have been so successful recently?'

A bit of the old Schumey magic floating around?
 

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Mclaren have been better than Ferrari all season, as soon as they pinch Ferrari secrets, Ferrari do a 1-2 over them. I reckon they should have just stuck with what they know, after all it worked for the first half of the season;) Why would you want to pinch the 2nd best team's secrets if you are the best?
 

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Yeah, but not as good as the question Nigel Stepney's gonna be asking soon -

"Do you want fries with that?"

Al.:D
I dont think so...

For theft/industrial espionage....more like "you now have laundry duty...lights out at 9pm"...CLANG...



~
 

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Mclaren have been better than Ferrari all season, as soon as they pinch Ferrari secrets, Ferrari do a 1-2 over them. I reckon they should have just stuck with what they know, after all it worked for the first half of the season;) Why would you want to pinch the 2nd best team's secrets if you are the best?
Ahh you see thats because they lack confidence, McLaren that is. In their mind they are second best (which obviously they are) so they need to scramble for any scraps that the BigDog leaves lying around. The thing is the BigDog is quite clever and knowing that they (McLaren) have an inferiority complex decided to through out some scraps (disguised as primo steak) for them through the auspices of a disgruntled employee. The strategy has obviously paid off as McLaren now have an upset stomach...
 

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t1f, very clever theory. You seem to know a lot about espionage and counter espionage. You've either been watching too much 'Spooks' on TV, or you are 00T1f;)
 

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t1f, very clever theory. You seem to know a lot about espionage and counter espionage. You've either been watching too much 'Spooks' on TV, or you are 00T1f;)
Too much John LeCarre I fear - I am an avid reader.
:) <- Smiley (central character)
 
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