JULY 16, 2001
Renault blames F1 industrial espionage
JEAN-JACQUES HIS, Renault's technical director, has blamed industrial espionage by former members of the Stasi - the former East Germany's Secret Police - as one factor behind the poor showing of the radical new 111-degree V10 engine which powers the current Benetton B201.
"There are lots of people in Germany who have experience of this kind of work," he said. "We had to scrap a lot of our work when we found out and start all over again. It has been a big blow for us."
His claimed that hackers had broken into Renault's computer systems over twelve months ago while the new engine was in the final stages of its development. Changes had to be made as a result of this intrusion.
"We discovered in July last year that some of the data from the design of the engine had gone," he said. "Someone had got into the system. We did not believe it at first, but then we were shown what information had gone. We had to change direction in certain areas of the design, but I am 99 per cent certain there is nothing on the engine now that others could have seen."
His is now confident that the Renault computer system is now completely secure after the company called in experts from the French secret service who helped trace the hackers back to Germany.
Despite a degree of scepticism over Renault's claims, a degree of pit lane espionage is a regular feature of formula one life with teams paying photographers for detailed shots of key components on their rivals' cars.
This has led to most pit lane garages having security men at the door and screens erected in front of the cars to obstruct prying camera lenses while mechanics are stripping down the various components.
"To find one tenth of a second out of a car these days you easily spend half a million pounds," said Frank Williams recently. "Seeing half a million quid taking a trip down the pit lane is not very funny."
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