OCTOBER 4, 2007
Stepney says publisher pulled out because of pressure
Nigel Stepney says that his plans to publish the full story of his adventures at Ferrari, in a book called Red Mist have had to be cancelled because the publishing company was "put under pressure" - but he does not know who was responsible for that because the publisher is unwilling to tell him what is happening. Stepney says that he will go ahead with another publisher because he believes that his story should be told and that he has not been given a fair chance to defend himself. He says that the Stepneygate scandal means that he has nothing to lose in the motor racing world.
"I'm not sure I want to work in Formula 1 again, to tell you the truth," he says. "I'm not angry with it. I think the FIA needs to change a bit. It's a business and it should be managed by people with more professionalism. I was told I mustn't go against Max Mosley (President of the FIA) or I'd lose everything. I said: 'Too late, I've already lost everything'. But that is not the point, that doesn't bother me, I can start again. We've got the best championship in years and why? Go back to the beginning. If I'd have accepted what Ferrari said to me about the car and just played the game. Ferrari won the first race by miles. Should I have just played the game?"
What is clear is that Stepney's intervention did result in Ferrari being forced to change its car after the Australian GP when McLaren went to the FIA. There was also a letter, written in August in which Stepney gave details of his attempts to tip off the FIA about the Ferrari, before he went to McLaren. This was mentioned in the recent World Council transcript in which Max Mosley said that there was nothing in these contacts with Peter Wright, Charlie Whiting and Jo Bauer to suggest that this was whistle-blowing. Unfortunately, the FIA says that it will not publish these e-mails and clear the air because it wants to avoid the selective use of evidence by those seeking to stir up trouble. Deciding what should and should not be in the public domain is not really in keeping with the federation's oft-stated desire for "total transparency" and will create perceptions which the FIA would probably be wise to avoid.
Very few people would argue that Stepney is blameless but that does not mean that everything he says is rubbish and must be ignored. Stepney's credibility continues to be undermined with Jean Todt telling The Times that "he lost his head, that's all. Unfortunately, sometimes you have people who lose the sense of things and it's a shame because we all have some personal responsibilities. You should have some limits, some discipline, and he did not know how to place limits on himself and the problem is that there is a high price to pay."
Todt went on to say that Ferrari has no reason to fear Stepney's accusations.
But obviously someone does because otherwise Stepney would not be having problems with his book.
Given that Stepney has not been allowed much of a voice in the scandal and was not involved in the FIA World Council meeting, we think it is fair to publish his letter to Mosley on August 30, explaining his part in the scandal.
"Dear President" it reads, "You and I have known each other for many years and you like I have always had Formula 1 at the centre of our heart. The issues that have arisen have indeed been very distressing, especially when the media have been leaked information from sources that are not fully aware of the truth. These accusations have tarnished Formula 1. This has therefore pushed me to write this letter to you to explain the circumstances of events. I'd like to break the circumstances of events into 3 separate issues which I hope will help clarify the situation for you.
1) My initial doubts
In January of 2007 during the assembly of the new car I first bought up the subject about the reservations I had on the concept and legality of the front floor system with the Chief Designer Aldo Costa and another 2 senior design personnel at Ferrari. I pointed out to them the various points that concerned me and what other teams also might eventually pick-upon. The Chief designer said he would look into it. Later on in the month of February a couple of items had been better disguised before the Australian GP, but these were only cosmetic changes. I asked at the time, if we had asked the FIA for any clarification on the system which we could do, as defined under Article 2.4 in the Technical Regulations. The response was NO we will go with the system as it is and take any advantage up to the time any team makes noises to the FIA, at the minimum we will have at least 1 race under our belts before any action can be taken. Up to mid February I was the person responsible for the legality aspects of the car and each previous year I had always spoken to the Technical Director about any reservations I had on the legality of the cars, he would then go away to discuss the details and then come back later with the answers and explain to me where we stood. So this was a normal situation during the course of my duties. I decided in mid February to step down from my role as Technical Manager for various reasons one of which was this new way of approaching the regulations, I also declined to accept the responsibility in my new role of Team Performance Manager, of being responsible for the legality of the car, and made it clear to various other top team representatives that for me the car was illegal in a couple of areas. Nobody took any notice which was very frustrating.
Later on in February I was still not comfortable with this philosophy and contacted Peter Wright to ask him for his technical advice on the subject of the legality of the front floor system. He said he could give his own advice on the subject but I could only get an official clarification from Charlie Whiting, I said for now his own comments would be sufficient. Later on I sent Peter an e-mail on the details of the system and laid out my concerns on the Ferrari's front floor system. I described that for me it did not conform to Article 3.15 in the Technical Regulations and it could also possibly be conceived as being at the beginning of a crude lever type mass damper.
Peter came back to me a few days later saying it looked very suspicious and asked me how I wanted to handle the situation, I said he could inform Charlie Whiting but please don't mention where this information came from. Peter also asked me what I wanted and what was I trying to achieve from doing this and I replied I'm not looking for anything except a clean and fair championship.
Peter informed me about 10 days before the start of the Championship that he had discussed this system with Charlie Whiting, he had asked him where he had found the source of information but Peter would not tell him, Charlie Whiting said he was aware of some system but not to this extent and would look further into the subject at the Australian GP. Personally I would have thought that because of the seriousness of the claim that it should have been looked into BEFORE the event!
2) Technical reasons for raising the issues
I will try to answer the points in Article 2.4 in the Technical Regulations relating to this system so it can be more clearly seen why Ferrari were not prepared to ask for clarification at the beginning:
a) The front floor is attached to the chassis via a mechanical hinge system at its most rearward point, the most forward support is a body with 1 compression spring and 1 tension spring inside which can be adjusted according to the amount of mass that is fitted to the front floor. There is also a skirt which seals the floor to the chassis which is made out of rubber and Kevlar to help the flexibility and reduce the friction in the system.
b) This models a complex mass-spring-damper system. The system consists of a mass ,B, suspended on a lever arm, a compression coil spring ,C, and a tension coil spring ,T. This tension coil spring can be pre-loaded to compensate for the varying amounts of mass, therefore allowing always equilibrium within the system. A force, F, is applied to the lever arm.
c) There are no immediate implications on other parts of the car for the Ferrari but if system had been allowed it could have meant a huge cost of development for other teams in such areas as chassis and under trays etc to make way for the provision for storing the system and the variable quantity of mass.
d) The possible long term consequences of such a system would be quite substantial because the system is in a crude state of development it could mean the development to chassis the improvement of the hinge system to the main under tray the necessity to increase the quantity of mass in this area which would depend on how much ballast was available therefore by reducing the weight of other components on the car and the weight distribution requirements.
e) The precise way in which the car system would enhance the performance of the car is in my view the following salient points:
i. It allows the car to ride over the kerbs of chicanes harder because of the 14-15mm deflection at the leading edge of the floor and disturbing the car less.
ii. The system would allow for a straighter line through chicanes.
iii. Also a ride and aerodynamic advantage could be obtained because of the spring and mass layout on the front floor with the mass damper coming into effect.
iv. The front plank wear is reduced therefore allowing the car to run lower at the front which allows a gain and aerodynamic advantage in efficiency.
v. The car from around 160-180 kms is about 7-8mm lower at the leading edge of the front floor which multiplies nearly up to 19-20mm lower front wing height at the leading edge. The benefits in terms of ground effects and efficiency would be gained all around the components like turning vanes and front wing at the reduced height relative to the ground.
The above points could give a serious advantage over the competitor's cars.
On the Friday of the Australian GP I phoned up Mike Coughlan to ask him how things were going generally and if the FIA had taken any action on any issues, he told me no it was very quiet so far. I asked him if he had time to look at the other teams cars, he said he had a brief look and asked me why I wanted to know if the FIA had taken any actions on what issues, so I told him about the e-mail I had sent to the Peter Wright concerning the front floor system on the Ferrari, he asked me for a copy, so I said I'll send you a copy of the e-mail I sent to Peter Wright. He asked me what I wanted and I replied nothing but a clean and fair championship. I suggested he should make his own judgement and then talk to Charlie Whiting to seek clarification. The rest of the story which unfolded during the event of which I'm sure you're aware of.
I also sent an e-mail to Jo Bauer around the same time of the first e-mail sent to Peter Wright but on another subject. I wanted the FIA to be aware of what was going on again and treated with the same confidentiality as the other issue.
This e-mail contained points relevant to Articles 2.5 and 3.2 in the technical regulations. I pointed out that there was a possibility of the car when sitting statically on the 3 reference plane points was not sitting parallel to the FIA's flat horizontal surface. The advantage from doing this is that you can gain in height relative to the ground on all bodywork facing the ground because by offsetting the 2 front points by -1mm below the reference plane and the rear point that is +1mm above the reference plane. This in terms of height and advantages gained lowers the front wing between 2-3mm towards the ground. This may seem a very small number but any way to reduce the front wing and turning vane height to the ground is a performance advantage. This was subsequently delt with by Charlie Whiting AFTER the Australian GP, but it would have been possible to have modified the cars prior to the Australian GP.
I would like to add the following remarks:
a) I believe Charlie Whiting acted in the best interests of the sport in the way he handled these issues. I also think he never made any reference to the mass damper to reduce any possible aggravation or he believed it was never an issue. By making a general across the board decision on the changes to the regulations no single team was pointed out as having circumnavigated the regulations.
b) The only issues for me are why did he not take action earlier in the event therefore reducing the advantage any team may have had?
c) If McLaren had not asked for clarification of the legality of the Ferrari system would Charlie Whiting still have taken the same action or waited 2 to 3 races or never ?
d) Knowing this information why were the cars allowed through scrutineering when there was possibly some doubt into the eligibility of the cars presented for scrutineering?
3) Personal involvement
Now we come onto the third issue concerning the Ferrari documents.
I was contemplating my next move in my career and required a new challenge. I had been offered by the new Technical Director of Ferrari the possibility in the future to be more involved at the initial design and concept stage of the car. I thought about this and decided to gather some information together to study and try to understand if I could be of any value in this area.
At the same time I was looking for other challenges and also decided to look around in another team where I thought I could make an impact and help bring a team that was further down the grid to be more successful which is what I had helped be a part of in doing with Ferrari. I chose to approach the Honda F1 Team but also thought that to achieve my goal I would need some other people. So I thought first I needed a Chief Designer or Technical Director so I contacted Mike Coughlan.
We met in Barcelona where I was on holiday contemplating my future. I knew Mike and respected his work, the quality of the design and the attention to detail of the McLaren was next to none and mainly down to him. We talked about how we might integrate into another team and what approach we should take. I said what my options were at Ferrari and he suggested perhaps if I was thinking of going in the direction of being involved in initial design and the concept stage that going on a Catia course could be a good idea.
I told him I had prepared some draft contracts which I had in my possession and asked him what terms he would be looking for. I also had documents from Ferrari on me at the time, which I was using to try and understand if I could make the step from basically a chief mechanic into a more senior technical roll of which I had never been trained for. Having these Ferrari documents was completely legitimate because I was still with Ferrari.
Mike looked at some of the documents and was obviously interested in them, I said I didn't think it was a good idea that he should be looking at these papers. I was obviously wrong to even have let him have access to them. But he said that I could use these in the Catia course. Eventually he took a small amount of these documents and put them in his bag, I asked what was he going to do with them and he said don't worry nothing. We then got into the car because it was time to go to the airport, in the car he saw some other documents which he started to read, he then took them all and pushed them inside his back pack. I didn't think it was a good idea and said you can't do anything with them. He told me don't worry I won't use any of this stuff.
Mike really had no reason to use any of this information at McLaren and to the best of my knowledge he never contemplated the idea. His only intention was to help me out. McLaren is a well respected organization and quite capable of winning the championship without any outside help or information, gained by deceit.
Also you cannot take items from one concept of car design, manufacture them and expect that they are going to benefit the concept of another car design. There was never any talk or intention either of using this information in any other team.
You have to understand that my computer has been confiscated by Ferrari and therefore I cannot supply any documents to back up my statements and only an indication of the dates, but your organization will have copies of the original e-mails I sent regarding my concerns.
I would like to make the point that never at any time was there any malice in my actions towards you and FIA. Also it was never my intention to cause any damage or injury to the reputation of any of the parties involved which I hope is now evident.
In conclusion I accept that perhaps I was nieve but my intentions were to do the best for the sport that I have been involved in for the last 30 year and more importantly a fair and clean Championship.
Mr Ron Dennis
Mr Jean Todt
While publishing this story may result in accusations that we are favouring Stepney, we have concluded that everyone else has had plenty of opportunity to say their piece and it is wrong that Stepney's views are being suppressed.