More details on the F1 espionage scandal

Felipe Massa, French GP 2007

Felipe Massa, French GP 2007 

 © The Cahier Archive

The complicated allegations regarding Ferrari's Nigel Stepney, his connections with an officially unnamed senior McLaren engineer - and the details of the investigation into their supposed activities have led to much confusion in Formula 1 circles.

In an effort to reduce the speculation going on, Ferrari issued a press statement on Thursday at Silverstone explaining that the English police have "so far not been involved in investigating the theft of technical information".

According to Ferrari the alleged theft was brought to its attention by a third party "outside F1 racing" who suggested that McLaren might be in possession of "highly sensitive Ferrari information".

Ferrari immediately consulted a London law firm and then made an urgent application to the High Court in London to obtain a court order to conduct a search of the McLaren engineer's home.

In English law the police are usually involved in the issuing and carrying out of search warrants but they do not have to be. There is a process that allows for what is known as an Anton Piller order which can be used in civil actions in order to prevent the destruction of incriminating evidence. It is named after a German company which won the first such order in a British court in 1976.

Anton Piller orders are only used in exceptional circumstances and the accusers must have very strong proof that there is incriminating evidence that could be destroyed and must prove that there is serious potential damage if the documents change hands.

The first thing that a defendant would know about the process would be when a lawyer turned up with the order at his house. The defendant has no choice but to cooperate.

Our sources suggest that a package of technical information was handed to the McLaren individual at Port Ginesta in Spain at the end of April when both Ferrari and McLaren were testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The question of who informed Ferrari remains a mystery but there are stories in the F1 paddock that Ferrari may have been alerted to the problem when an attempt was made to photocopy the information at a commercial printing shop.

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