This was the first chapter of what turned into Spygate. Stepney was dismissed from Ferrari under allegations of sabotage, before the espionage details started to come in. The precise details of the sabotage accusations were not made public, but this is from a news report at the time:
Stepney says he is innocent of allegations that he tried to sabotage the Ferrari F1 cars in the days before the Monaco Grand Prix … Ferrari refuses to give details about the allegations it is making but someone somewhere is feeding the Italian media with stories about white powders being found in the fuel tanks of the Ferrari racing cars in the run-up to the Monaco Grand Prix.
The same day, McLaren suspended a senior member of their team after they learned of Ferrari’s internal investigation, but did not reveal who it was (we now know it to be Mike Coughlan). And the rest was history….
Certainly not F1’s greatest moment. One team’s secrets are given to another. One of the main drivers becomes aware and benefits from this (presumably so does his team-mate) but sits on it until the FIA threatens punishment for withholding information. The team is found guilty and fined a record amount – only for another team to be found guilty of the same thing with zero punishment.
But I’d never heard of the sabotage story until today. It doesn’t look good for Stepney though.
The team is found guilty and fined a record amount – only for another team to be found guilty of the same thing with zero punishment.
Let’s not go into that again. I’ll just point out that having an on-demand flow of information courtesy of a mole within another team, is not the same thing as possessing a couple of technical drawings taken from one team to another by one person switching employers.
I don’t really want to go into it either, but Renault didn’t “just have a few things”. Quoting from the FIA’s findings they had ‘unauthorised possession of documents and confidential information belonging to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, including, 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.’ Just because McLaren were even worse it doesn’t excuse what Renault did, just because they didn’t have a mole as well as everything else.