Former Ferrari engineer, Nigel Stepney has denied that he sent any secret documents to McLaren-Mercedes' chief designer, Mike Coughlan.

Stepney, who admits that he met with Coughlan in Spain at the end of April and who also concedes that he met with Honda team boss, Nick Fry in June, added that while the situation may not look good for him, he hasn't done anything wrong.

"I admit it looks blatantly obvious," he told British newspaper, The Observer. "But something is happening inside Ferrari.

"I was accused by Mario Almondo of taking some drawings. I had them in my possession legitimately because I needed them for work on the simulator, but it was reported to him by the drawing office that I had them. I got the papers and threw them on Almondo's desk. The next day they were back on mine!

"I categorically deny that I copied them, or that I sent them to Mike Coughlan. I knew I was being watched all the time at the factory and that everything I did or said was being reported back and that people knew whenever I accessed files on the computer. I have no idea how anything came into Mike's possession. I don't even know for sure that he has had documents. Do you know for sure? Categorically, he didn't get them from me. If he has some, then they came from another source.

"I would be a bit stupid to go anywhere if I had such material, wouldn't I? I put a lot of the systems and working practices in place at Ferrari, relating to the operations of the test and race teams and the preparation of the cars, information I am told was supposed to be in the documents. I had worked on them with Ross Brawn and Aldo Costa. So if I already had all that material in my head, why would I need it all again? I am seriously doubtful that Mike has these documents.

"I have nothing to hide; I might as well have left the keys to my house with the caretaker so anyone from Ferrari could go in. Ferrari is terrified that what I have in my mind is valuable.

"I'm just a bit confused. I was never a yes man and as soon as I went against the system at Ferrari, I got squeezed. Ferrari is unique in Italy; it's a religion. If you go against it, it's like going against the Vatican.

"I'm anxious, naturally, but I haven't done anything wrong and I believe in the legal system in Italy."

Asked when things first started to go wrong at Ferrari, he reiterated that things started to turn ugly when Ross Brawn announced he was going on a sabbatical and when he said that he wanted to leave the team.

"The first sign of a potential problem came in September last year when Ross Brawn [Ferrari's technical director] said he would be taking a sabbatical and the technical management structure would be changing," he continued.

"I wanted to report to Aldo Costa, the head of chassis design. He was the right person to respond to. I didn't want to respond to Mario Almondo, the new technical director.

"By mid-February, the relationship had started to break down. I couldn't work with them. I missed the one-to-one relationship with Ross. He knew exactly what I could do; I always had 100 per cent support from Ross. Now I had four or five people to report to. It was very frustrating.

"I told Jean Todt I didn't want to travel any more. I wanted to sit back and consider the future. Ferrari took that badly. My role became head of performance development based at the factory. I began to feel like I was some sort of traitor, just because I no longer wanted to travel.

"At that stage, I wasn't looking anywhere else. But whenever I discussed anything with people in the factory in the course of doing my job, it got fed back to senior management. People became scared to talk to me. I was put in a position where it was difficult to do my job. By the end of March the situation was unbearable. I started to look at other teams."

Stepney, who was on a planned holiday in the Philippines with his fianc?e and child when the scandal broke, added that he has since had to leave Italy as his life has become intolerable there.

"There have been high-speed car chases. We've been followed by more than one car, with Italian plates, and when we cornered one of them last Thursday evening the men in it refused to speak. I don't believe they were journalists. Ash [my fiancee] has been stalked at the house.

"There was tracking gear on my car. Someone was going to get hurt. I had no option but to get out of Italy," he concluded.

 

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