I’ve stayed away form the whole saga that has been dubbed "Stepneygate" for the last few days. There has been so much speculation and rumor that it is hard to decide what should be considered fact, and what should be considered fiction. Since I last wrote about Stepneygate it has widened, now we have the Honda, Ferrari and McLaren teams in the thick of it, the FIA getting involved by investigating the scandal, and then summoning McLaren to appear in front of a special World Council meeting on July 26.
On the personal side and directly involved we have Nigel Stepney of Ferrari, Mike Caughlan of McLaren, Mikes wife Trudy (who apparently was the one trying to get photocopying of Ferrari documents done, which triggered the whole McLaren part of this saga) and also named and involved is McLaren Racing Managing Director, Jonathan Neale.
To me it seems that although Stepneygate as it is called, has widened it’s scope, I feel that somewhere along the line this may separate into two distinct sagas. Firstly Stepneygate, with the problems between Nigel Stepney and Ferrari, and then I think we will find out that the other half of this should be named Caughlangate. I say they will be separated as nowhere has it been confirmed that the discs (I told you in my earlier Stepneygate post that this would not have included the actual theft of paper documents, but rather electronic copies) actually came from Nigel Stepney. That leaves the door firmly open for other involvement from Ferrari.
The current burning question on everyones lips is did McLaren benefit from these documents. While the answer is probably no as far as actual car design goes, Nigel and Mike may have been communicating for some time, and possibly some of Nigels thinking may have been changed or expanded by those conversations. After all, a tip off about some technology, or a different way of doing something can easily lead to more investigation, and result in "new" features and developments being included in a car. With all of the movement of personnel between teams, this is nothing new. The flow of ideas between teams has slowed up a little from where it used to be after the introduction of "gardening leave", but being on gardening leave as we have seen recently in NASCAR with modern technology means nothing, and those on gardening leave could easily be passing technology on.
McLaren being summoned to appear before the FIA is also an interesting development. We are all guessing at this stage as to what the FIA wants to know, but the smart money is on further investigation into the allegations earlier in the year about Ferrari’s floor. I remember thinking at the time, how did McLaren know so much about Ferrari’s floor, as it appeared in the reports at the time that they knew a lot about it. Well, maybe we have our answer, could it be that Caughlan was the man feeding the information, information gained by the disgruntled Stepney ? The answer is probably. Time will tell.
Until this thing plays out completely, which could take some time, Planet F1 has assembled an easy to read summary of the events as they have occurred, and continue to occur. It makes for some good reading, and is probably the best summary of Stepneygate out there.