Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer has admitted that he is finding it hard to believe that people he has worked with for years could be at the centre of the escalating espionage row at the Scuderia.

With suggestions and allegations continuing to circle and build, threatening the world championship battle as they go, the Italian veteran has said that he hopes that the issue does not affect Ferrari's recent revival.

"It seems impossible that persons that you have been working with can do certain things," he told Italian press agency ANSA, "We will have to wait and see what the FIA decides to do [regarding the championship], but [the] Ferrari [challenge] has grown a lot in this last month, and I hope it will still be strong in the coming races."

The latest suggestion from Italy is that it was not merely drawings of the F2007 that changed hands, allegedly passed on by disaffected Ferrari technical manager Nigel Stepney to McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, but also complete sets of race and test data from the car's early outings this season. Italian investigations are currently centring on trying to prove whether Stepney had 'accomplices' that helped to smuggle the information out of Maranello - although the Briton continues to maintain his innocence and stress that he has been fingered by Ferrari as part of a 'dirty tricks campaign' after he spoke out against the management.

While the national sports media, led by Gazzetta dello Sport ponders whether Stepney should have had his contract paid up in order to release him from the company instead of confining him to a factory-based role - and therefore preventing the entire situation from occurring - the question remains regarding the possible punishments facing those directly involved and, in wider terms, McLaren.

While team boss Ron Dennis insists that Coughlan acted alone and therefore the team should not be punished - especially if no-one else saw any of the information he acquired - the FIA has summoned representatives of the Woking operation to a special meeting in Paris, where it could end the championship ambitions of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at a stroke.

Although Bernie Ecclestone initially stated that neither driver would be affected if the team was docked points, the governing body's suggestion that McLaren could be suspended from future races would naturally affect their ability to take the title.

Honda's role, if any, in the row has yet to be fully explained, with team principal Nick Fry admitting that he had met with both Stepney and Coughlan to discuss future employment opportunities for the pair, but stressing that, at no time, had access to information been discussed. The Brackley team has not been summoned by the FIA.

 

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