JULY 7, 2007
And so the scandals roll on...
The British Grand Prix weekend has seen the espionage scandal roll on with huge amounts of rumour and gossip, making it very difficult to figure out what is truth and what is speculation. The story moved forward on Friday afternoon when Honda put out a statement saying that Nick Fry, the team's chief executive officer, met Nigel Stepney and McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan "with a view to investigating job opportunities within the Honda Racing F1 Team". It is the first time that anyone has officially used the name Coughlan in relation to the current scandals, although the name has been widely reported in the media.
The company went on to say that "at no point during this meeting was any confidential information offered or received".
Nick Fry has since informed Jean Todt and Ron Dennis of the meeting and has offered to provide any information required by Ferrari and McLaren.
As we suggested yesterday, the motivation of Stepney was to take a team of top engineers to Honda. It is not clear who all the other engineers involved may have been, but we hear that there was at least one other engineer from McLaren and probably three from Ferrari.
There has been speculation that one of them may have been a top aerodynamicist.
There have also been allegations in the Italian press that Coughlan may have shown the 700 pages of Ferrari information to another member of the McLaren staff. The team has not said that Coughlan was the only one to see the data but has continually stated that "no intellectual property of another Grand Prix team" is on the cars. It is fairly clear that if Coughlan is left on his on by the team he has no reason to protect them - and McLaren knows that so denying that others have seen the data would leave the team open to accusations of lying and anyone who knows McLaren well understands that this is not a position in which Ron Dennis is going to put himself.
The story is going to run for a few days more but the major elements now seem to be in place. The legal action in Italy will go ahead. If the Italians want to talk to Coughlan it seems that the allegations are sufficiently serious to qualify for the issuing of a European Arrest Warrant. The civil action in Britain will be pursued if necessary but Ferrari obviously does not want one lawsuit delaying another - as has happened in the recent case involving Toyota.
There will be an FIA investigation and it must be remembered that teams have a collective responsibility to abide by the rules and thus can be punished even if the problem relates to a rogue member of staff.
Keeping the scandal going for the British GP weekend will do the viewing figures in F1 no harm at all, but keeping the scandal going for too long will do no good for the sport.
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