Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 22 News List

FIA to investigate charge of industrial espionage

AP, WOKING, England

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen steers his car through a corner in the Magny-Cours circuit during the French Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Motor sport's world governing body, the FIA, is to investigate alleged industrial espionage against Formula One team Ferrari in which an employee of rival McLaren has been implicated.

The FIA said on Wednesday in a brief statement that it had the full cooperation of both teams in its probe.

Earlier, McLaren said its Formula One cars did not contain any Ferrari-related alterations and invited the FIA to inspect them.

On Tuesday, McLaren suspended an employee - named in British newspapers as chief designer Mike Coughlan - after learning he had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April.

"McLaren has completed a thorough investigation and can confirm that no Ferrari intellectual property has been passed to any other members of the team or incorporated into its cars," McLaren said in a statement.

Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo told Italian news agencies on Wednesday that "it is an incident of unheard of seriousness, but for the moment I do not want to add anything else."

McLaren said it had spoken with Ferrari about the issue and invited the FIA to conduct a full review of its cars "to satisfy itself that the team has not benefited from any intellectual property of another competitor."

Also on Tuesday, Ferrari fired British technician Nigel Stepney following an internal investigation into attempted sabotage before the Monaco Grand Prix. Ferrari also filed a criminal complaint against Stepney, who was responsible for team performance.

A mysterious powder was reportedly found in the gas tanks of the cars of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen on May 21, six days before the Monaco race.

The parts were replaced before the race and the powder was sent to the police to be examined.

Massa finished third in the race and Raikkonen was eighth.

Raikkonen and Massa finished first and second respectively in the French Grand Prix on Sunday to cut McLaren-Mercedes' lead to 25 points in the team standings after eight of 17 races.

McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are 1-2 in the driver's standings, while Massa and Raikkonen are third and fourth.

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