Renault denies using McLaren data (updated)

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2007 | Steven Tee / LAT PhotographicRenault has denied that it used McLaren intellectual property illegally and confirmed the earlier rumours that the allegations concerned employee Phil Mackereth.

In a statement issued today the team admitted becoming aware that Mackereth had the information in September this year – twelve months after he joiend the team from Mclaren.

Read the statement in full below.

Statement from Renault

Following the notification of the FIA for the ING Renault F1 Team representatives to appear in front of the World Council, the team wishes to clarify the situation.

On the 6th September 2007 it came to our attention that an engineer (Mr Phil Mackereth) who joined the team from McLaren in Sept 2006 had brought with him some information that was considered to be proprietary to McLaren. This information was contained on old style floppy discs and included copies of some McLaren engineering drawings and some technical spreadsheets.

This information was loaded at the request of Mr Mackereth onto his personal directory on the Renault F1 Team file system. This was done without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team. As soon as the situation was brought to the attention of the team’s technical management, the following actions were taken:

The information was completely cleansed from the team’s computer systems and a formal investigation was started. We promptly informed McLaren of the situation and immediately after the FIA.

Since then we have constantly and regularly kept McLaren and the FIA informed on all relevant findings.

Mr Mackereth was immediately suspended from his position. The original floppy discs were impounded and sent to our solicitors for return to McLaren.

Our formal investigation showed that early in his employment with Renault Mr Mackereth made some of our engineers aware of parts of this information in the form of a few reduced scale engineering drawings. These drawings covered four basic systems as used by McLaren and were: the internal layout of the fuel tank, the basic layout of the gear clusters, a tuned mass damper and a suspension damper.

Subsequent witness statements from the engineers involved have categorically stated that having been briefly shown these drawings, none of this information was used to influence design decisions relating to the Renault car. In the particular case of the tuned mass damper, these had already been deemed illegal by the FIA and therefore the drawing was of no value.

The suspension damper drawing hinted that the McLaren design might be similarly considered illegal and a subsequent clarification from the FIA confirmed this based upon our crude interpretation of the concept.

ING Renault F1 Team have co-operated fully with McLaren and the FIA in this matter to the extent that the team has invited McLaren’s independent experts to come and assess the team’s computer systems and inspect the cars and the design records, to demonstrate that this unfortunate incident has not in anyway influenced the design of the cars.

ING Renault F1 Team have acted with complete transparency towards McLaren and the FIA, being proactive in solving this matter and we are fully confident in the judgement of the World Council.

Update: Renault has confirmed that at least 15 of its engineers were aware of the Mclaren information according to Autosport, including the head of vehicle performance and R&D, deputy technical director, deputy chief designer and chief designer Tim Densham.

Photo: Steven Tee / LAT Photographic

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16 comments on Renault denies using McLaren data (updated)

  1. rusydi85 said on 9th November 2007, 16:23

    See thats the difference between Renault and Mclaren. They reported straight back to Mclaren and the FIa intead of lying about it till it was blown wide open. Interesting that Mclaren attemted to use the alreeady illegal mass dampers..hah novel suspension system by mclaren, yeah right..

  2. SoLiD said on 9th November 2007, 17:13

    the mass dampers weren’t a ‘secret’, so it’s normal for McLaren to ask about it.

    But when I read this, there is indeed a difference with the McLaren situation, and it looks like Renault acted in a very correct way… So they probably won’t be charged.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th November 2007, 17:20

    Perhaps – but if I were Ron Dennis or Martin Whitmarsh I’d be asking about that one-year gap between Mackereth joining the team and the information being discovered.

    In comparison, Coughlan seems to have had a greater amount of information in his possession, but for a shorter period of time.

    Part of the FIA’s concern with McLaren was how far the information had been disseminated within the team. It will be interesting to see what evidence Renault can provide to prove it didn’t go far. They have acknowledged that he showed the information to other people.

    On the face of it I think Renault have cause to be concerned.

  4. Wow, this really ties Mosley’s hands. Not only have they admitted they had the data, they’ve admitted it was distributed to their engineers. Shades of the Mclaren case there. Add to that the fact that they had the Mclaren data for longer than Mclaren had the Ferrari data (therefore more opportunity to use it) and they are admitting it was loaded onto the Renault computer system and they must be facing big big trouble. Their insistence that they didn’t use it can’t help them, the Mclaren case proved that doesn’t cut any ice with the FIA.

    The FIA made it very clear, having a competitors data for 6 months, even if you don’t use it, deserves a 100 million fine. 12 Months? Renault has best hope that they have a big overdraft facility, or that the FIA were just being biased against Mclaren.

  5. rusydi85 said on 9th November 2007, 17:33

    Mackereth came in the team in September 2006 . By the time car development have almost stopped, the only us for it might have been 2007. But seeing the performance of the R27 i dont think so. Thats y Renault have no fears.IF they are disqualified from 2007 championships they only lose money..coz they didnt win anything in 2007.Coughlan in the meanwhile had the data since the start of the season, possible even before..as Mclaren were able to find details abt Ferrari’s moving floor in Australia and at the start of the season the data could be used in the car development, setup data..etc. And after showing the data to his Mclaren bosses they didnt go straight to FIA and Ferrari but instead chose to keep it under wraps.

  6. carlos said on 9th November 2007, 19:37

    Renault knew a spionage case and they gave the information to Fia and Mclaren.
    Mclaren knew a spionage case and they did hide all the information, denying all, even in the first meeting with Fia and Ferrari.
    I think the question of intentionality, will be essential to differentiate, or not, both cases.

    I wonder too, why a information dated on september it is appearing at this precise moment.

    Renault has not duty to prove they are innocent, I think the correct proceeding is Mclaren proving Renault is guilty, at least Ferrari had to do it so.
    If Renault is guilty, they should to have a punish similar what Mclaren had.

  7. Daniel said on 9th November 2007, 21:52

    The funniest thing of all is to remember how harshly Flavio Briatore criticized the first decision concerning the original ‘spygate’, when McLaren wasn’t punished, despite their possession of Ferrari’s confidential data.

    How could he now defend himself?

  8. bernie's nemesis said on 10th November 2007, 1:03

    Is it me or does this seem like Renault have seen the punishment dealt out to Mclaren and gambled on ‘being honest’ rather than found out and fined heavily.

    Over a dozen mechanics knew of this information, and it was on their computer system, yet senior management were unaware, only finding out before the Mclaren case (after it had been in their possesion one year).
    It would appear they only made the FIA aware after the Mclaren case was heard, as the FIA are charging them up until October.

    So I’m sorry if I read this statement a little sceptically, especially as Flav was so outspoken about Mclarens punishment. It just appears a little far fetched for adults.

  9. SLightly off topic, but following the Hill’s remarks on this case this part of FIA’s response caught my attention:
    Explaining what happened with the Ferrari floor, which Hill suggested had been ‘illegal’, the FIA spokesman said: “This device fully satisfied the tests which were in place up to and including the Australian Grand Prix. It was therefore completely legal at that event. On learning how the device functioned, the FIA concluded that although it complied with the letter of the rules, it was outside the spirit. Ferrari were therefore asked to modify it as were McLaren and Red Bull who were running similar devices. ”

    McLaren also used the flexi floor in Australia ? Weren’t they the ones to complain to FIA about Ferrari using it ?

    As to Renault’s case – I would be worried if I were Flavio … Yes, they were open about it and reported to McLaren and FIA, but only after a year of having the information and after seeing what has happened to McLaren. Team boss not knowing did not help Dennis and it may not help Flavio and Renault…

  10. Further on the fia’s comment on ferrari’s moving floor being compliant with the rules at that time – too know it did wouldn’t they have access to ferrari sensitive information – prior to any other team and what if a whistle blower at in the fia had told mclaren ?? – plue if mclaren had the floor – where did it dissapear too ???
    Also didnt that statement just smack of superior officialdom – the we know better than all you other people smugness!!
    Put the whole lot on a leaky boat with capt max at the helm and call the ship titanic 2.

  11. Journeyer said on 12th November 2007, 12:48

    I have an idea – what if this happened? You’ll think I’m crazy, but read it first.

    Renault know they’re in trouble. Flavio talks to Bernie (his good friend, remember). They know Max has been making too much trouble and needs to go sooner rather than later. They hatch a plan.

    Bernie talks to Max. He explains to him why Renault need to get a lighter punishment than McLaren (the Ghosn factor). Max (who loves his manufacturers) will agree and get the WMSC to lessen the punishment.

    Most of the F1 paddock is shocked at the lighter punishment. Max, being Max, tries to explain it away, but it won’t work this time. The teams (egged on by Bernie and an angry Ron Dennis) will trigger a coup and get rid of Max.

    Who will they get to replace him? There’s a good number of choices. Jean Todt (who is out of the Ferrari sporting dept), Sir Jackie Stewart, Tony Purnell, so on… anyone but Max. Whoever the replacement is while cancel the McLaren fine (if not the season DSQ).

    So Renault get away (relatively) scot-free, McLaren get some form of justice, and the F1 fans won’t notice it as much as Max leaving F1 for good.

    It won’t happen, but can’t we dream? :)

  12. Crazy H said on 21st November 2007, 19:15

    CHECK THIS ONE OUT!

    I know people who work at the main teams involved and have heard a few interesting things relating to this story. If you remember at the time that the McLaren spy story started Flav was mouthing off about how McLaren should get kicked out…

    …At the next race there were stories of Dennis spending a lot of time talking to Briatore at one of the races and suddenly Flavio stopping spouting off…

    As I understand it Dennis was telling Flav to shut up because they had damning evidence that Renault was involved in some pretty serious spying offence.

    Apparently now this guy who left Mclaren and went to renault took 3 CDs of data with him, and it was loaded onto the Renault network and parts shown to a dozen or so engineers and there is pretty clear evidence that this happened. Supposedly some have even admitted that details were copied into the 2006 design later in the season!

    COnsidering how much effort went into finding evidence of Mclaren using the Stepney file and the only hard evidence that turned up was some driver emails (if you don’t belive me read the whole FIA transcript), then the Renult offence is much more serious.

    As for Flavio being honest because he went to the FIA as soon as he found out – the alternative was for Dennis to go first. I wouldn’t trust Flavio as far as I can throw him (and he’s pretty fat) and I doubt many in F1 would.

    If the FIA is going to be fair then Renault ought to get a more serious punishment than McLaren.

  13. Crazy H said on 21st November 2007, 19:16

    I meant
    “Supposedly some have even admitted that details were copied into the 2007 design later in the season!”

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st November 2007, 19:25

    If that were proven then Renault could well be in a lot of trouble. Here’s what Briatore had to say at the time:

    Briatore: “Throw McLaren out”

  15. Well Crazy H – on the basis of the info youv’e put forward and it being true? – I read what Briatore said earlier about McLaren – short of being told to take a long walk of a short cliff(scottish saying) – then the fia would have to ban their new 2008 car at least – even more – seasonal song here” Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – and of course if they got Alonso – sorry it’s just getting so intersting – lets see what excuses etc are given to/and by the fia

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