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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report


FIA targets McLaren drivers in spying probe

September 07, 2007 16:49 IST

Formula One's governing body has written to teams saying it suspects McLaren drivers had evidence that could incriminate the championship leaders in a spying controversy with Ferrari [Images].

In a letter, seen by Reuters at the Italian Grand Prix on Friday, International Automobile Federation (FIA) President Max Mosley wrote to team principals last week seeking information.

"As you will be aware, the FIA has recently investigated whether, how and to what extent McLaren was in possession of confidential Ferrari technical information," he wrote.

"The FIA has subsequently been made aware of an allegation that one or more McLaren drivers may be in possession, or that such drivers have recently been in possession, of written evidence relevant to this investigation.

"In the interests of the sport and the championship, it is important that the FIA, as the regulator, establish unequivocally and rapidly whether or not this allegation has any basis in fact," continued Mosley.

McLaren suspended their chief designer Mike Coughlan in July after 780 pages of Ferrari technical information was found at his home.

Ferrari suspect it was sent to him by their now-dismissed employee Nigel Stepney, although the Briton has denied the accusation.

NEW EVIDENCE

The FIA said on Wednesday it had received new evidence and reconvened its highest authority, the World Motor Sport Council, for a hearing in Paris on Sept. 13.

If found guilty of using Ferrari data, Mercedes-powered McLaren could be kicked out of this year's and next year's championship.

The team, who lead the drivers' title chase with Briton Lewis Hamilton [Images] and double world champion Fernando Alonso [Images] and are 11 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings, have denied incorporating any of the information in their car.

The FIA letter formally requested that the team bosses produce copies of any documents in their possession that were sent by or to any McLaren driver.

It said documents included emails, text messages, drawings and diagrams.

"In particular .... the FIA wishes to receive copies of any electronic communications howsoever conveyed or stored which may be relevant to this case, and which make reference to Ferrari, Nigel Stepney or any technical or other information coming from, or connected with, either Ferrari or Mr Stepney," added Mosley.

"You will appreciate that there is a duty on all of those involved in our sport to ensure the fairness and legitimacy of the Formula One world championship."

A paddock source told Reuters that Hamilton, Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa had received separate letters from the FIA.

Unsourced media reports on Friday suggested that emails between Spaniard De la Rosa and compatriot Alonso, allegedly relating to the setup of the car, may have triggered the new hearing. Neither driver has commented on the allegations.

De la Rosa raced for now-defunct Arrows in 1999 and 2000, the team that formerly employed Coughlan.

Asked about Mosley's letter and any replies, an FIA spokesman said it would be "inappropriate to comment on any of the new evidence in advance of the world motor sport council hearing."

© 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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