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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report


Ferrari broke the rules, say McLaren

Alan Baldwin | August 02, 2007 11:16 IST

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Formula One leaders McLaren have accused rivals Ferrari [Images] of running an illegal car at the start of the season and making 'grossly misleading' statements in a spy controversy overshadowing the championship.

In a long and detailed letter to the head of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI) published on the McLaren Web site (www.mclaren.com), team boss Ron Dennis took issue with Ferrari's allegations.

The governing FIA ruled last week that McLaren, 27 points clear of Ferrari in the standings before Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, had been in unauthorised possession of Ferrari data but imposed no penalty because there was inconclusive evidence they had gained from it.

The matter will now go to appeal after protests from Ferrari and the Italian body.

Dennis referred to two incidents involving McLaren and Ferrari data, one of which he said was a clear case of whistleblowing.

He said Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney, since dismissed by the team, had tipped off McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan in March that the Italian team's car was in breach of the regulations.

"Specifically, he told Mr Coughlan about a floor attachment mechanism and a rear wing separator, both of which could be and were seen on the Ferrari car prior to the Australian Grand Prix," said Dennis.

ILLEGAL DEVICE

He said the governing body declared the rear wing separator to be legal but not the floor device.

"As far as we are aware, Ferrari ran their cars with this illegal device at the Australian Grand Prix, which they won," said Dennis.

"In the interests of the sport, McLaren chose not to protest the result of the Australian Grand Prix even though it seems clear that Ferrari had an illegal competitive advantage."

Dennis said Stepney had "acted properly and in the interests of the sport" in bringing the matter out into the open.

"It is in the interests of Formula One that whistle-blowing is encouraged and not discouraged," he said.

Dennis said McLaren had instructed Coughlan to cease contact with Stepney but they met in Barcelona on April 28.

In July, two computer discs with Ferrari material were found in a search of Coughlan's house carried out on the orders of the Italian team.

"As it is now in the public domain, Mr Coughlan has admitted that Mr Stepney gave him a dossier of Ferrari documents in Barcelona which he took for his own private reasons," wrote Dennis.

"He kept these documents at his home and later with the assistance of his wife copied (them) onto two CDs at a shop near their home before shredding the originals using a home shredder and burning them in his back garden."

Dennis said Ferrari had gone to "extraordinary length to try to maximise the damage to McLaren, no doubt hoping to gain some advantage for the world championship" since that discovery.

He again ruled out anyone else at McLaren being aware of the documents or of any Ferrari details finding their way into the design process.

"McLaren's reputation has been unfairly sullied by incorrect press reports from Italy [Images] and grossly misleading statements from Ferrari," said Dennis.

"It would be a tragedy if one of the best world championships in years was derailed by the acts of one Ferrari and one McLaren employee acting for their own purposes wholly unconnected with Ferrari or McLaren."

© Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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