McLaren will appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council on Thursday to answer charges relating to the ongoing spy row surrounding suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan.

It has been a complicated affair and what follows is a low down on events over the last few months...

June 22 2007: Ferrari confirms it is to take its head of performance development, Nigel Stepney to court. "It is not related to any event, it is related to his behaviour," a Ferrari spokesperson tells Reuters. The case will be heard in Modena.

June 24 2007: Nigel Stepney responds - while still on holiday - and tells The Sunday Times he is confident he will be cleared by the legal process. He adds he is the victim of a 'dirty tricks campaign'.

Speculation that the Ferrari investigation is to do with sabotage - after a white powder was apparently found in the petrol tank area of the Ferrari race cars, six days before the Monaco Grand Prix - is denied by Stepney's lawyer.

June 26 2007: Ferrari insist they are confident their 'sabotage' case against Nigel Stepney will be resolved in the Scuderia's favour. The Maranello-based squad claims it has 'compelling proof' the 47-year-old acted illegally

July 3 2007: Ferrari confirms Nigel Stepney has been dismissed from his role with the Scuderia.

July 3 2007: McLaren confirms that it has 'suspended a senior employee' (later named as Mike Coughlan) after 'this individual personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April.'

"Whilst McLaren has no involvement in the matter and condemns such actions it will fully co-operate with any investigation," adds the team in a statement. "The individual has in the meanwhile been suspended by the company pending a full and proper investigation of the matter."

July 4 2007: Ferrari names Stepney as the source of the suspected leak of technical secrets to arch rival McLaren.

"Ferrari announces it has recently presented a case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team with the Modena Tribunal, concerning the theft of technical information," a brief communiqu? from the Maranello team confirmed.

"Furthermore, legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued concerning the engineer. This produced a positive outcome. Ferrari reserves the right to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature, according to the applicable laws."

July 4 2007: McLaren issues a statement saying that no intellectual property was passed onto another member of its team, or indeed incorporated into the design of their cars.

"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 has in the meanwhile openly disclosed these matters to the FIA and Ferrari and sought to satisfy any concerns that have arisen from this matter. In order to address some of the speculation McLaren has 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."

July 5 2007: F1 ringmaster, Bernie Ecclestone says McLaren drivers', Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton unlikely to lose points - if team are found guilty in spy row. He adds though that the team could be docked points.

July 6 2007: Nigel Stepney returns home to Italy after his holiday in the Philippines and admits he is 'surprised' to have been fired. Sources in Italy speculate he may not have acted alone.

July 6 2007: Honda dragged into spy row on the eve of the British GP after the Brackley-based outfit confirms that team principal Nick Fry met with Stepney and Coughlan last month. Honda statement stresses at 'no point during the meeting was any confidential information offered or received'.

July 7 2007: McLaren team boss, Ron Dennis says that the team will be vindicated in the spy row.

July 8 2007: Nigel Stepney denies giving any secret information to Coughlan. "I categorically deny that I copied them, or that I sent them to Mike Coughlan," he tells the British Sunday newspapers.

Stepney flees Italy after a number of high-speed car chases: "There was tracking gear on my car. Someone was going to get hurt. I had no option but to get out of Italy," Stepney adds.

July 8 2007: FIA president, Max Mosley contradicts Ecclestone and says McLaren drivers' could in fact be docked points too as a result of the spy row. "It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that a penalty for a team is different from a penalty for the driver," he tells The Times.

July 10 2007: Spy row goes to London High Court. Ferrari confirms tip off led to Coughlan, after his wife, Trudy, took the documents to a local photocopy shop. Ferrari's lawyers say they have behaved 'disgracefully'.

July 11 2007: High Court hearing called off after Coughlan provides a sworn declaration answering Ferrari's questions regarding how confidential information came to be in his possession.

July 12 2007: FIA summons McLaren to an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council to answer charges relating to the ongoing row surrounding suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan.

"The team representatives have been called to answer a charge that between March and July 2007, in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes had unauthorised possession of documents and confidential information belonging to Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, including information that could be used to design, engineer, build, check, test, develop and/or run a 2007 Ferrari Formula One car."

July 12 2007: McLaren issue statement saying they are 'extremely disappointed' to have been asked to answer a charge of being in possession of certain documents and confidential information belonging to Ferrari.

"Whilst McLaren wishes to continue its full co-operation with any investigation into this matter, it does wish to make it very clear that the documents and confidential information were only in the possession of one currently suspended employee on an unauthorised basis and no element of it has been used in relation to McLaren's Formula 1 cars," says the team.

July 14 2007: David Coulthard tells British newspaper The Independent that McLaren will be found innocent: "I don't doubt Ron Dennis and McLaren's position on it," said the Scot, who of course drove for McLaren from 1996-2000. "They are too clever and their integrity too high to be involved."

July 15 2007: FIA says spy row could have implications for McLaren's drivers - echoing comments made by Mosley earlier in the month. "We don't call an emergency meeting of the World Motor Sport Council lightly," a spokesperson for the FIA told The Mail on Sunday.co.uk. "We cannot rule out the fact that any sanction against the team would have implications for the drivers."

July 16 2007: Ferrari test driver, Luca Badoer says he is 'stunned' by the spy row allegations.

July 16 2007: Coughlan says a number of people at the Woking-based outfit were aware that he had the 'secret' Ferrari dossier.

July 17 2007: McLaren issues a new statement denying that anyone other than Coughlan knew about the stolen Ferrari dossier prior to 3 July.

"McLaren is concerned that erroneous speculation has arisen from inaccurate and misleading reference to the contents of confidential legal papers filed at court in response to Ferrari's UK action to recover its intellectual property," read the statement. "This is unfortunate and is prejudicial to a fair interpretation of these matters.

"McLaren can confirm from its own investigation that no Ferrari materials or data are, or have ever been, in the possession of any McLaren employee other than the individual sued by Ferrari. The fact that he held, at his home, unsolicited materials from Ferrari was not known to any other member of the team prior to the 3 July 2007.

"Furthermore, McLaren has categorically established that no Ferrari information has, at any stage, been used to develop its car.

"McLaren looks forward to having the opportunity to present the complete and accurate picture of events in the appropriate forum, that is before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 26 July 2007."

July 18 2007: Spotlight returns to 'third team'. Spanish FIA representative Joaquin Verdegay tells Spanish newspaper AS: "While it appears that the information may have been destined for McLaren, [Stepney and Coughlan] had a lot of documentation of the two better teams in F1 and the intention was to sell it to another team, such as Honda."

July 18 2007: Stepney continues to say he is innocent, amid reports that he is ready to name the guilty parties who leaked the information to McLaren.

July 20 2007: Honda Racing team boss Nick Fry again claims that there was no hint of impropriety when he met with 'disgraced' pair Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan before the spy row saga became public knowledge.

Speaking at Friday's press conference at the Nurburgring, Fry repeated the facts surrounding his meetings with both men - it now appears that he met them on more than one occasion - but insists that there was nothing to suggest that technical information from Ferrari was on offer to his team.

July 26 2007: Judgement day for McLaren as FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing convenes.

What happens next? Stay tuned to Crash.net to find out...

 

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