Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan – the two men who came close to bringing Formula 1 to its knees with the well-publicised espionage row of 2007 – have been pronounced free to return to the top flight by FIA President Max Mosley.
Former Ferrari chief mechanic Stepney and McLaren-Mercedes chief designer Coughlan were implicated in the transmission of private, top-secret data from the Scuderia
to its Woking-based rival – a saga that became referred to as 'Stepneygate', and one that not only cost both men their jobs, but earned McLaren a sporting record $100 million USD fine and exclusion from the 2007 constructors' world championship.
In the wake of the spying row that rocked the sport two summers ago and the subsequent investigation by the sport's governing body, Stepney and Coughlan were not formally punished, but Ferrari did initiate legal proceedings against the former in Italy and the FIA advised teams 'that they [should] not professionally collaborate with Mr. Stepney without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motorsport'.
Stepney subsequently went on to accept a role as Director of Race Technologies at new sportscar outfit Gigawave, but now it has been revealed that on the request of one of their lawyers, an effective 'pardon' has been issued, restrictions have been lifted and the pair are free to once again seek job opportunities in the highest echelon.
“The other day we got a letter from the lawyers of one of them saying he has got this restriction and this restriction, and it does seem a little bit mad to make them serve out even longer when the two teams concerned are making love to each other,” Mosley told British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
. “So, we have said we will let them forget it.
“In the end they were just very minor players. If the full story came out, they are two minor players and there are people who are not minor players – but the full story will probably never come out.”