Debate: Stepney scandal good for F1?

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2007Ferrari-McLaren scandal, Stepney-gate, the Ferrari espionage affair – call it what you will, everyone’s talking about it.

Lewis Hamilton may be big news in the back pages of newspapers but the increasingly strange details of industrial espionage between F1’s two top teams is commanding column inches in the front pages.

Every top sport from football to NASCAR knows the importance of controversy for staying in the limelight. So might this scandal actually raise F1’s profile?

Don’t get me wrong – the allegations being made are very serious and if anyone has stolen information from one team and passed it on to another they deserve to be punished.

But “every cloud has a silver lining” and I actually think this could have positive benefits for F1.

Not only does it keep the sport in the public eye but it highlights just how cut-throat competitive it is.

So is Stepney-gate a good thing?

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20 comments on Debate: Stepney scandal good for F1?

  1. yes. at the moment it’s not hurting the image of the sport. the minute it does – probably at the point Stepney figures he has nothing to lose and starts talking openly to the media about ‘bodies’ – max will play the “disrepute” card and make it all go away.

    plus it keeps the season interesting.

  2. good for F1 at the moment, good for media and bloggers, not so good for Stepney, Coughlan and it remains to be seen what impact it will have on McLaren … If some McLaren involvement as a team surfaces it may affect the outcome of the championship and that definitelly would not be good for F1 …

  3. Well I’m gonna be Devil’s Advocate then and say no, Stepney-gate isn’t good for F1. Surely F1 should be in the limelight for good reasons, such as great racing, drivers with personalities, lots of overtaking, a variety of winners etc..?

    Also, Formula One could be about to lose two important people; Stepney and Coughlin. That can’t be good for the sport, can it? Losing a talented designer and whatever role Stepney ended up doing at the factory cannot be a good thing.

  4. Oh, and I echo milos’s statement above about the championship being affected. If the FIA deduct points from McLaren (or any other team) because if this, irregardless of whether or not it is fair to punish them, it will be detrimental to the sport. Fans do not like to see changes made to the points gained after they have been earned. If Max alters the tables, there will be a backlash. The team, if necessary, should be punished in another way (fined, thrown out of the 2007 Constructors (ala Schumacher 1997) etc…).

  5. “Good for media and bloggers” (Milos) – you’re not kidding! :-)

  6. I don’t think its good for F1 at all. Maybe good if you are selling newspapers.

  7. I dunno, maybe I’m naive but the whole business makes me sick. It may be good for getting more of an audience for F1 but what kind of an audience? Those who come to ogle the road accident will be gone once it’s cleared away.

    And in the meantime my illusions of F1 being a sport receive further pounding. Consider this: there are only two possibilities – either two of F1’s most respected engineers and designers have stooped to the sordid level of industrial espionage or Ferrari have become so vindictive towards a disaffected employee that they cooked up the whole business to discredit him.

    Either way, it stinks and, once again, I am ashamed of what F1 has become.

  8. The impression I get from people who aren’t watching F1 is that until F1 stops being processional and the political infighting stops, they won’t watch F1. This story does absolutely nothing about the first point and reinforces the doubters’ negative opinion of the latter. It won’t even attract the road-accident oglers – they demand action, and legal arguments don’t fit the bill. It also lowers the opinion supporters have of F1.

    So it’s bad for everyone – except the people that milos identified; the media and the bloggers. After all, it’s more material for them, and blogs never have bad news stories, only bad interpretation of news stories. When it’s as slow-burning a case as this, even bad interpretations tend to get temporarily excused (not that you’re likely to see any here, I hasten to add…)

  9. Journeyer said on 12th July 2007, 15:57

    But alianora, what sport DOESN’T have controversy? In racing, NASCAR had the Hendrick suspension, IRL has those driver fights becoming frequent, WRC had that Toyota DSQ a decade ago.

    Outside racing? NBA stars keeping getting involved in brawls, hockey had THAT lockout, while baseball, cycling, American football, and wrestling are all dealing with steroids.

    Actually, F1 is kinda lucky that it hasn’t had serious long-term problems. It’s only had the occasional glitch (like Indy ’05 or Jerez ’97). But other than that, politics has stayed out of racing’s way… for the most part, anyway.

    So is the Stepney scandal good for F1? The story makes for a good read. But in terms of viewing audiences, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.

  10. I hear that synchronised swimming is pretty unblemished so far. But does anyone actually watch that…?

  11. Until it does not increase overtaking,it doesn’t do me any good.Admittingly,being a Mclaren fan I am tense about everything but seriously does it even matter on raceday?Sure,you can tell me that X component of Mclaren is same as Y component of Ferrari but there are other teams on track and if the whole race is going to be like a parade lap,I don’t care.That is not what I want to be thinking on those odd weekends.I would chose race won by strategy over a scandal any day.

    Question should be:Is Stepneygate good for F1’s PR?

    I don’t see how my friend who does not watch racing or politics,will be so bloody interested in it just because one team is copying stuff from one another team.Especially when he thinks that all F1 cars look very identical to each other.

    Back in 2005,the US GP was nominated for Sporting Moment of The Year at the Laureus Sport Awards.SPORTING?And we had a far better race in Japan later in the year and that was overlooked.In my opinion,Japan would have served as a much better poster boy(or poster race…whatever) but it was overlooked.

    So think about it,do we really want to see F1 been brought on to the pages be popularised by scandals?I think not.

  12. Wesley said on 12th July 2007, 23:17

    It is interesting reading but,I don’t think anything that tarnishes the reputation of a sport is good.We have Barry Bonds here in the States to break the home run record in baseball after admitting steroid use,now that the media interest in the story is over no one wants to see this cheater break our Hank Aaron’s well deserved place in the Hall of Fame.

  13. Wesley said on 12th July 2007, 23:26

    …if this effects a two time world champion and the mighty new rookie then,it is not worth juicy gossip.

  14. There is a difference between sports that occasionally have controversies (most of which do not get in the way of sporting competition) and the impression that a lot of the non-F1 viewers have, which is to say that there are more controversies in F1 than there are races, and that many of them spoil the racing. That’s their (slightly paraphrased) opinion I’m reporting, by the way. It is within that background that the Stepney controversy is harmful.

    If, like most other sports, the Stepney thing would have been the first, second or third controversial event, some sort of positive result might have been possible. There is a point, however, when the “all PR is good PR” positive line is outweighed by the effects of the “not another dodgy event” negative line. Look at cricket or horse racing if you want proof of this – both have had problems with negative PR in the last few years, and both have had to fight hard to get their reputations back.

  15. I don’t think casual fans latch on to the majority of controversies that go on in F1. When one like this hits the front pages of the papers it’s big news. It’s on a whole other scale to Renault’s mass dampers, or Alonso’s qualifying penalty at Monza last year.

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