Formula 1 Insight

Stepney Speaks Out
Grandprix dot com has an interesting article today that might set a few cats amongst the pigeons. After looking at Luca di Montezemolo's deliberate overstatements of the recent past, the article has an account of an unsolicited exchange with Nigel Stepney in which he maintains that the flow of information between Mike Coughlan and himself went both ways.

Nigel Stepney

Stepney says that he was provided with details of McLaren's race strategy and set up and that he shared this information within Ferrari. Whilst admitting that he has no proof that this was happening, Stepney points out that the question of a two-way flow has never been investigated.

Obviously, we need to take all this with a pinch of salt but the fact is that it remains a possibility. And it highlights something that I have been saying all along: that the FIA may end up with egg on its face once the court cases begin to reveal the full truth of what happened in the early months of this year. If it is proved that Stepney, as a Ferrari employee, had secret McLaren information and might have fed some of it into the team, will the FIA then deduct Ferrari's constructor's points for this year and fine them $100 million?

In that situation, it is difficult to see how the FIA could get away with anything less, unless they want to declare openly that they are an organization that puts the interests of Ferrari before anything else. And if they have to impose the same penalty on Ferrari as has been levied on McLaren, BMW will have won a constructor's championship well ahead of schedule. In which case, I wonder if Mario Theissen would still be saying that they really only came third.

The point is that the FIA has stuck its neck way out with the WMSC verdict. The finding of the committee was based entirely upon Max Mosley's opinion that Ferrari information "must have" gone beyond Coughlan, de la Rosa and Alonso. And, if that is evidence enough upon which to convict and sentence, the same must surely be applied if it is found that Stepney had McLaren information and might have used it in the course of his work.

I have said all along that the FIA acted prematurely and ventured upon ground that was beyond its jurisdiction in the matter. There was no need for the WMSC to decide whether Ferrari information penetrated McLaren's design structure - that was always going to be investigated by the courts. The WMSC's brief, as stated at the outset, was to prove that the sport had been brought into disrepute by McLaren and that was always going to be difficult without a decision having been made on the industrial espionage aspect. In the absence of a court ruling, the WMSC had no option but to proceed to decide the matter for itself and, in the process, exceed the limits of its remit.

Never mind that Max's opinion would not be regarded as sufficient cause to convict in a court of law; what matters is that the WMSC has ruled on something beyond its jurisdiction. And the FIA may well have put itself in a position where its impartiality and fitness to govern the sport are called into question. Its reputation and standing now depend entirely upon the result of legal investigations that have not been completed. To have gambled upon the legal processes coming to the same conclusions as oneself is exactly that - a gamble - and Max and Montezemolo should be thinking about that, rather than casting slurs upon McLaren.


Hmm, I feel a bit stupid as I hadn't even thought about the chance of information flowing as freely in the opposite direction as it had been flowing from Stepney to Coughlan!

What a muppet!

Of course, it now seems probable that is exactly what did happen - the big difference may be that everyone has seen the e-mail proof which condemned McLaren but if Stepney doesn't have anything to point at Ferrari then no doubt the FIA will manage to wangle a way to get out of imposing a similar penalty.
Date Added: 03/10/2007

It's true that Stepney is apparently unaware of any evidence of the two-way flow, Craig. Presumably, Coughlan was equally unaware of the email evidence of his supply of info to de la Rosa - otherwise he would have forestalled everything by mentioning it in his affidavit. So there may be evidence that Stepney is unaware of and is yet to be turned up by investigation by the legal eagles.

And that's my point, really. The FIA has taken an unnecessary risk in pre-judging the case since further evidence is just as capable of proving them wrong as it is of vindicating their verdict.
Date Added: 03/10/2007

Dan M
It seems like it would only make sense that he was telling the truth, why would he give out so much info for nothing in return? Maybe by providing Ferrari with this info he thought he would solidify his spot in the team. It seems like to give away Ferrari info would be taking a huge risk for no real return.

Could this be the 'skeletons in the closet that he was referring to but could not talk about at the time?'
Date Added: 03/10/2007

That's what everyone would like to know, Dan - what are these bodies that Stepney knows about? The pending court cases are going to be very interesting if and when Stepney gets to testify. And, if he doesn't, there's always his book - which he now says he'll publish himself.
Date Added: 03/10/2007
one question... why now?

why not bring this information to the attention of before the FIA hearing, or at least immediately afterwards?

why specifically this week?
Date Added: 03/10/2007

A very good question, Sidey, and one that we can guess at the answer to and never get within a mile of the truth. Stepney does seem to be very haphazard in his occasional releases of information and there seems to be no plan or reason behind the timing. That may mean that he's making it up and just blurts it when it's finished cooking, or it may be that some days he feels like having a say and doesn't at other times.

Personally, what I think is happening is this: Stepney knows that he's in deep doo-doo and needs to be careful what he says. So he watches events, waiting to see where he can either release a few choice facts that might strengthen his case later or throw a spanner in the prosecution's works.

Take his "book", for instance. He sees the WMSC case go badly for McLaren and Ferrari beginning to strut about afterwards, ponders for a while and then "mentions" that he's going to be publishing a book. The message to Ferrari is clear: don't get too confident - you still have me to deal with and you know how much I know.

In fact, that whole book incident is quite interesting in itself. It was going to be called Red Mist and, when you look at the publisher's name, it turns out to be "Red Mist Publishing". That leads one to think it's a little printing establishment set up by Stepney with the express purpose of publishing his book.

But then we hear that the publishers have said they ain't gonna do it. Ignore for a moment the reason for their withdrawal - instead, we must now think that it wasn't Stepney's enterprise after all. If he is Red Mist Publishing, why would he say he was going to publish and then decide not to? But then why was the book named in the same way as the publisher? Happy coincidence? I can't believe that.

It's like so much in this affair - apparently without rhyme or reason. It's not just Stepney that's causing the surreal atmosphere either; Trudi Coughlan trotting down to a Woking copier to get the dossier put on CD is just as unreal as anything Stepney has told us about.

Sometimes I feel as if the whole thing is some sort of publicity event staged by Bernie for our amusement. It has been called a soap opera but it's more like a long Monty Python episode. Can you guess what's going to happen next? I can't, that's for sure!
Date Added: 03/10/2007

Dan M
Red mist is a term for someone who has lost their temper, and normally would go out of the way to seek revenge. Is the title supposed to represent the 'fog' that surrounds Ferrari or a cryptic way of saying hes pissed and wants to take Ferrari down with him.

If indeed Ferrari is just as guilty as McLaren I want it to be known soon, the faster it is known that the FIA screwed up the sooner it will be restructured.
Date Added: 03/10/2007

I presume that the title is a play on words, Dan. Stepney is probably intimating that Ferrari see everything through a red mist but it may also be indicative of his own anger at the way things have gone. Since the book was supposed to be an autobiography, I thought it was a pretty bad title - was his whole life conducted in a state of suppressed rage? It sounds like it.

Unfortunately, we have to wait for the courts to get around to the case before we'll have any answers. And even then, I doubt we'll hear the whole story. My post is conjectural only - I'm not saying Ferrari were as guilty as McLaren, just that the possibility is there.
Date Added: 03/10/2007

Great big fleas have little fleas upon their back to bite 'em;
and little fleas have littler feas;
and so on, ad infinitum.

Where will it end? I wish I knew.. Meantime, I DO so enjoy this site!

Date Added: 04/10/2007

Thank you, Fractal - kind of you to say so. :)

Big fleas and littler fleas - I know the rhyme so well! Where will it end? See next week's thrilling installment! Will Naughty Nigel finally get his own back on Lucky Luca? Will Mickey the Cough spill the beans all over Magnificent Max? Can the Ronster get No-no Nando and Louie the Lovely to kiss and make up? Don't miss it! Same time, same channel!
Date Added: 04/10/2007

Number 38
I keep my antenna aimed at this station, I get THOUGHTFUL articles rather than the rambling drivil so many others publish.
But........I'm going to send a fly (or a flea) to hang on the wall in MadMax's office, I'm sure he's working on a PR response if things get out of hand. The FIA has botched this Ferrari/McLaren business, and there's no doubt more to come.

Date Added: 04/10/2007

RSS feed icon RSS comments feed

Back to the main blog

Have your say

You may use some HTML in comments. For bold text use <strong></strong> and for italic text use <em></em>. If you know what you're doing feel free to use more complex mark-up but please no deprecated tags, break tags or JavaScript.

Enter the code shown above:

Name *

Comment *

Email *


Copyright disclaimers XHTML 1.0 CCS2 RSS feed Icon