Ferrari's head of performance development Nigel Stepney has said that he is 'confident' he will be cleared after the Scuderia confirmed on Friday that they are taking legal action against him.

Speculation that the 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 last month - has been denied by Stepney's lawyer.

Although the precise reason for the investigation has not been revealed, a spokesperson for the Maranello-based outfit told Reuters recently that it is not 'related to any event', rather it is 'related to his behaviour'.

The 47-year-old told British newspaper, The Sunday Times though that he has nothing to hide.

"I have confidence I'll be cleared by the legal process that is now taking place," he noted. "It is just part of a dirty tricks campaign and everything is in the hands of my lawyer, so we'll wait and see what happens."

As for reports that Ferrari and the police have been unable to contact him, he said he was baffled by such remarks.

"I'm on a planned holiday [in the Philippines] with Ash - my fianc?e - and our baby," he added. "Why would anyone say I am not contactable? I booked the flights through the Ferrari travel office. They know where I am."

Stepney has been with Ferrari for a number of years and was apart of the dream team that took Michael Schumacher to five successive world titles. Although not given the same recognition as the likes of Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt, Stepney acted as chief mechanic before rising to the post of technical manager for both the race and test team.

However, the reshuffle that followed Schumacher's retirement and Brawn's sabbatical has not found favour with the Briton, who has made no secret of his desire to leave Maranello and head for one of the teams closer to home, with Honda apparently keen to hire him.

Stepney is allegedly unhappy with the way things are proceeding at Maranello and, having threatened to follow Brawn to the sidelines, has already been assigned to a backroom role away from the track.

Luca Brezigher told The Sunday Mirror that sabotage could be ruled out as one of the alleged offences for his client.

"I can only say with certainty that Stepney is being formally investigated, but the charge against him at the moment is rather unspecified," he explained. "From what I have learned many types of offences can be identified, such as aggravated damage or sporting fraud, but I'd rule out sabotage.

"On the matter of Stepney being unreachable, it must not be considered as an attempt to flee. He is on vacation.

"I don't think it credible [either] that a professional of his calibre could damage his own team."

 

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