2007 Formula One Espionage Controversy - Timeline

Timeline

2007

March or April

  • McLaren's chief designer Coughlan obtained in March, prior to the Australian GP, documents from Nigel Stepney. McLaren later states this was in April.

Sunday, May 27

  • An incident occurred prior to the Monaco Grand Prix when white powder, later alleged to be a sabotage attempt by Stepney, was discovered in the fuel tank of Felipe Massa's car and sent to the police.

Friday, June 22

  • Police raid Stepney's residence near Ferrari's Maranello base.
  • Ferrari commenced legal action against Nigel Stepney, the action relates to alleged "illegal" behaviour and will be handled by an Italian court.

Sunday, June 24

  • Nigel Stepney declares that he is the victim of a "dirty tricks campaign" waged by the Italian team.

Tuesday, June 26

  • It emerges that the investigation may not be about sabotage. The suggestion is that Ferrari suspects a new case of espionage, involving the transfer of information to rival teams.

Early July

  • Coughlan's home in Surrey (UK) is raided by court officials, who apparently find incriminating evidence.

Monday, July 2

  • Ferrari makes an application to the High Court in London for the court's assistance.

Tuesday, July 3

  • Ferrari fires Stepney.
  • McLaren releases a statement, saying a senior member received technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April. Mike Coughlan is suspended.

Wednesday, July 4

  • A spokesman for Ferrari says: "We have proof that Stepney had been supplying technical information to a McLaren employee and we found evidence of that fact in his (Coughlan's) home."
  • F1's governing body launches an investigation into the incident.

Thursday, July 5

  • Nigel Stepney is interrogated for more than three hours by Italian police. His house near Maranello was raided for a second time.

Friday, July 6

  • Honda team principal Nick Fry met with Stepney and Coughlan in June. "At no point during this meeting was any confidential information offered or received. Nick Fry informed Jean Todt and Ron Dennis of the meeting."

Saturday, July 7

  • Max Mosley tells reporters that an FIA investigation into the affair, which is being led by race director Charlie Whiting, is under way. Honda is not part of the investigation.

Sunday, July 8

  • Stepney denies allegations that he passed reams of confidential team data to a colleague at McLaren.

Tuesday, July 10

  • Coughlan's case hits the London High Court for a public hearing. Coughlan is officially accused of receiving stolen and secret documents.

Wednesday, July 11

  • Coughlan does not appear in London's High Court after reaching an agreement with Ferrari. The suspended McLaren chief designer will provide a sworn affidavit to Ferrari in exchange for the information not being available to prosecutors in Italy.

Thursday, July 12

  • Representatives of McLaren are requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on July 26, 2007 to answer a charge of breaching Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.

Monday, July 16

  • Coughlan's sworn affidavit details come out: he told several fellow McLaren employees about his possession of reams of secret Ferrari material. McLaren reacts the same day, denying Coughlan's allegations.

Wednesday, July 18

  • Stepney requests a meeting with his former boss Jean Todt.

Friday, July 20

  • Stepney's Italian lawyer Sonia Bartolini reveals that Ferrari has turned down her client's request for a meeting with Jean Todt.

Thursday, July 26

  • The World Motor Sport Council finds McLaren to be in breach the International Sporting Code for possessing confidential Ferrari information. They impose no penalty because of insufficient evidence that this affected the championship.

Friday, July 27

  • Ferrari release to the press "A reaction in the cold light of day", a lengthy monologue in which Jean Todt complains that though McLaren was found in breach of FIA's sporting regulations, "no sanctions were imposed." He states why Ferrari believe sanctions should have been applied. He also describes a request from Ron Dennis, received by Jean Todt early in the 2007 season, to establish a better relationship between the two teams to avoid "future denunciations to the sporting authority." Though initially sceptical, Ferrari came to such an agreement with McLaren on June 9.

Monday, July 30

  • Luigi Macaluso, the President of the Automotive Sport Commission of the Automobile Club of Italy (ACI/CSAI) writes to the President of FIA, Max Mosley, asking that Mosley submit this case to the International Court of Appeal of the FIA. Macaluso states he finds it difficult to justify no penalty for McLaren though they are in breach of the sporting code.

Tuesday, July 31

  • Mosley replies to Macaluso by letter and agrees to send the matter to the FIA International Court of Appeal. He explains why the WMSC chose not to punish McLaren, and outlines McLaren's argument before the WMSC on July 26, as well as some of the elements of McLaren's case which the WMSC considered "suspicious". The FIA said the hearing would likely be at the end of August.

Sunday, August 5

  • The morning of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso tells Ron Dennis he will send incriminating messages exchanged between himself De la Rosa and Coughlan to the FIA, Dennis informs Max Mosley

Tuesday, August 7

  • The date of the ICA hearing is confirmed as September 13.

Wednesday, September 5

  • The FIA announces that the case will be re-opened following the emergence of new evidence. It is confirmed that the new investigation will take place on September 13, replacing the ICA hearing.

Thursday, September 13

  • The second hearing commences. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton is called as a witness.
  • Following the hearing it is announced that McLaren is to be fined $100m, have their points stripped from the 2007 Constructor's Championship, and be required to submit their 2008 car designs to the FIA by December 2007, pending exclusion from the 2008 championship if they are found to contain Ferrari's intellectual property. McLaren's drivers are not directly affected.

Friday, September 14

  • The FIA issues a statement detailing its reasons behind the sanctions imposed on McLaren. In the statement, the FIA said that emails between the McLaren drivers proved that the British-based team used information leaked from title rivals Ferrari. The FIA statement also said "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 FIA has also published an email 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 (Räikkönen) was stopping in lap 18. He's very friendly with Mike Coughlan, our chief designer and he told him that." In addition, the gas that Ferrari uses to inflate its tyres is discussed, as is the team's pitstop strategy and braking system.
  • Ron Dennis says he is to decide whether to lodge an appeal against the FIA's penalty, and will make his decision after the Belgian Grand Prix that is taking place that weekend.
  • Ron Dennis reveals that he learned of the emails and texts between Coughlan, De la Rosa and Alonso after the Hungarian Grand Prix and immediately informed the FIA - resulting in the hearing of 13 September.

Saturday, September 15

  • Max Mosley refutes Dennis' claim regarding the emergence of the evidence.

Sunday, September 16

  • In an interview with Steve Rider, broadcast during ITV's coverage of the Belgian Grand Prix, Ron Dennis states he is "unlikely" to appeal the penalty handed out by the FIA.

Monday, September 17

  • It is alleged McLaren may file a complaint against Renault about alleged use of technical information. FIA president Max Mosley said "It's allegedly an employee who took some floppy disks with him. We haven't had the complaint or the detail we have been promised from McLaren about that, but when we get it, we will investigate. We've had a dossier from Renault which doesn't look particularly damning, but then again, you wouldn't expect it to." But Renault boss Flavio Briatore insists the situation bears no link to the spy row between McLaren and Ferrari which was resolved in Paris last Thursday.

Wednesday, September 19

  • FIA publishes transcripts of the World Motor Council's hearings on July 26 and September 13

Wednesday, November 7

  • The FIA announce that the Renault F1 team have been summoned before the FIA World Motorsport Council on 6 December, to answer a charge of possession of confidential McLaren technical information. A statement from the FIA read that the information included "the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car". The FIA statement goes on to say that Renault F1 were accused of "unauthorised possession" between September 2006 and October 2007 "of documents and confidential information belonging to McLaren, but not limited to, the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the McLaren fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars."
  • It emerges that up to 15 Renault F1 employees knew of the McLaren data.

Friday, November 23

  • McLaren accuse Renault of possessing their team information and gaining an "unfair advantage" from it. A McLaren dossier says the information was "knowingly and widely disseminated" within Renault. McLaren's dossier - which has been submitted to the FIA - includes 18 witness statements in which Renault F1 employees admit that they viewed confidential technical information belonging to McLaren.
  • McLaren also contend that 33 files belonging to the team, containing more than 780 individual drawings outlining the entire technical blueprint of the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars, were loaded onto Renault's computer system in September 2006.

Wednesday, December 5

  • McLaren COO Martin Whitmarsh writes letter to the FIA, accepting that "the inspection provides some support for the conclusion... that 'a number of McLaren employees... were in unauthorised possession of... Ferrari technical information'... We apologise wholeheartedly... that it has taken the intervention of the FIA and a time consuming process to expose all of the facts emanating from this matter". In the letter, Whitmarsh also identified certain systems on the car and offered to "enter into discussion... as to a moratorium of an appropriate length in respect of the use" of the systems.

Thursday, December 6

  • At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the World Motorsport Council, Renault are found to be guilty of breaching Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. They are not punished.

Friday, December 7

  • Another meeting of the World Motorsport Council to determine the legality of McLaren's 2008 chassis, the MP4-23 defers the decision to February 14, 2008 pending input from the McLaren and Ferrari teams into the final report.

Thursday, December 13

  • McLaren issue a press release (and their 5 December letter to the FIA) via their website, stating that "As a result of the investigations carried out by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile it has become clear that Ferrari information was more widely disseminated within McLaren than was previously communicated", and issued a public apology to "the FIA, Ferrari, the Formula 1 community and to Formula 1 fans throughout the world".
  • The FIA later published a press release stating that "In the light of McLaren's public apology and undertakings, the FIA President has asked the members of the World Motor Sport Council for their consent to cancel the hearing scheduled for 14 February 2008 and, in the interests of the sport, to consider this matter closed."
2008

Friday, July 11

  • McLaren and Ferrari both issue statements saying that all disputes between the two teams are now over. McLaren offer to reimburse Ferrari the costs and expenses related to the case and also a concluding payment. Ferrari say that this money will be donated to good causes. In the Ferrari statement it is made clear they will continue their claims against Nigel Stepney.
2009

Monday, February 23

  • Legal proceedings against Mike Coughlan, Jonathan Neale, Paddy Lowe and Rob Taylor in Italy were dropped, in exchange for payments of €180,000 (Coughlan) and €150,000 (others).
2010

Wednesday, September 29

  • Stepney was sentenced to a year and eight months in prison and a £500 fine, though under Italy's legal system he is highly unlikely to serve time.

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