back to article McLaren suspends top F1 engineer

The McLaren Formula One team has suspended one of its top engineers following an investigation into allegations that the engineer had a stash of high-level technical information from rival F1 team Ferrari. McLaren has declined to name the employee at the centre of the allegations but Ferrari has accused its former technical …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    All too serious

    This is what is wrong with sports these days, it's all big business and sponsor money.

    McLaren should be highlighted as being cheats not have some criminal case brought against them.

    Formula one should remove all the brands and do what they do in A1GP, have identical cars. This would show which driver is the best.

  2. Dogbyte

    Proof and pudding

    An individual having the information is one thing. Proving that the team profited from it is quite another.

    And why are Ferrari technicians so keen to give their secrets away? This is the second time recently.

  3. Chris Dymond

    It's Mike Coughlan

    The engineer in question is Chief Designer Mike Coughlan (although Chief Designer does not mean 'the guy in charge of design' at McLaren like you might think).

    Regarding "This is what is wrong with sports these days...", I just think that's a frankly ridiculous statement to make in such a close season, with multiple manufacturers producing the most sophisticated, fast and safe cars ever built, when the entire field was separated by only 2 seconds(!) after quali in Indianapolis, when some teams spend 100s of millions of dollars but still get beaten by teams with a fraction of that budget. Formula 1 *is* serious, that's what we love about it. All the best sports have depth and interest at strategic, tactical and operational levels - what would Cricket be without selectors and field placings? Football without signings and formations? If you only appreciate the operational, you're really missing an awful lot.

    What *is* confusing is what this article is doing on the Reg in the first place...

  4. /\/\j17

    Or We Could Wait For Some Evidence

    Easy there Giles - what do you know that even the Italian courts don't that proves McLaren (by which I'm guessing you mean the McLaren Mercedes F1 team and not poor, deceased Bruce McLaren) has in any way breached the rules of the sport or any national laws?

    How about we find some independent body to look in to the allegations, consider the evidence for and against and come to a ruling based on those facts. You know, something like a court.

    As for the suggestion of making it a single manufacture series, despite the best efforts of Honda and Red Bull a major part of the sport is the technical fight between the teams to push auto' engineering to it's limits.

    Take this away and you have some boring tosh that no-one really gives two hoots about - like A1GP.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FIA to let Ferrari win again?

    So. what's the betting that the FIA impose sanctions on McLaren at the last minute thereby enabling Bernie's chums (Ferrari) to win the championship by default (again)?

    No wonder I can't be ar**ed to watch it these days!

  6. Scooby


    "Formula one should remove all the brands and do what they do in A1GP, have identical cars"

    Surely then it would just be A1? The GP2 series has identical cars and while I agree the racing is better (as it is in A1) it lacks the glamour and prestige of F1.

    I think F1 has 50/50 appeal, 50% on track and 50% politics, which are juat as entertaining. Who can forget a certain Mr Button jumping ship from BAR only to be slapped on the wrist and forced to stay for another year, then when he could have gone to Williams they lost thier engine supplier and he chose to stay with Honda. Brilliant.

  7. Greem

    Re: All too serious

    You are Miss De Point and I claim my five pounds.

    For decades, Formula 1 hasn't been solely about how good the driver is; it's also been about how clever, ingenious but almost anonymous engineers can produce a better chassis and engine combination than the next clever, ingenious but almost anonymous engineer.

    OK, so the fifties, sixties and seventies saw this being done by very small teams able to buy components "off the shelf" (not from Halfords, mind you) - think the Cosworth DFV engine which completely changed the face of F1 by being the first engine to act as a stressed member of the chassis. Costin and Duckworth were, at that point, pretty anonymous to the world at large - but their engine went on to be the single most successful engine in world motor racing history. What did that have to do with the driver? Almost nothing. It was a pair of engineers who did that, combined with a whole heap of clever chassis designers.

    These days it's hundreds of them, rather than a few, but the same rule applies - the cleverest (or most devious) engineers make the best cars. The best car almost always wins - and the best drivers tend to aggregate around the teams with them.

    Nowadays, yes, big business is in there. If you don't like it, get down to your local circuit and watch some lower formula racing.


  8. Jim


    Please read to full story before declaring an entire team to be at fault, I guess next you will be saying that every employee of Enron was in on it and deserves gaol time?

    As for making F1 a spec series, F1 is marketed as a showcase for innovation as well as a racing series. You want a spec series watch A1GP, GP2 or even the GP Masters and wonder at all the technology that was originally devised in F1.

    Just out of interest, what exactly does this have to do with Hardware>>Servers?

  9. Pete James

    er, what?

    Looks like in Giles we have the predictable responses there. Oh yes, it's down to money, evil stuff. Ban it, now. And let's stop one sport trying to be innovative and make it really boring with identikit cars and pointless pitstops. 'Scuse me while I fall asleep..........

    Giles, Formula 1 has been about money for, ohhh, ever and ever. It was recognised from the start as being a way to show off a manufacturer's engineering prowess and has been the frontrunner in technical innovation of any 4-wheel sport. Some great ideas from some great men have toiled round the clock to find the magical answers to making a tub with four wheels go faster than anyone else. That includes Colin Chapman, who ironically also ushered in sponsorship with his Gold Leaf Lotus liveries.

    The whole point of A1GP is to have an alternative form of open wheel racing with different rules to F1, so why the two sports should suddenly become identical, as per your suggestion, is beyond me. Besides, ever considered that A1GP is also a huge river of cash, flowing in less transparent directions?

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, before you fire off keyboard jockey comments about McLaren being cheats, might be a good idea to either wait for the facts to emerge or at least know your motor sport history. Then you may well consider Ferrari, with its rich history of rule-bending, wilful breaking and sometimes hilarious melodrama when they don't get their way, to be getting a bit of their own medicine back.

  10. Kevin Kenny

    As techies we all know that...

    ...low level technical information woulda been far more interesting.

    High Level sounds like a brochure and power point slide:

    -- Formula One Car Executive Summary --

    1. Colour - Red

    2. Wheels - Four

    3. Engine - One

    4. Stickers - lots

    5. Speed - woo fast!

    6. Uses Petrol

    Any questions?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    F1 fanboys

    Silverstone _IS_ my local track, and this weekend I'm heading off to Nurburgring for some relaxing motorsporting. I stopped watching F1 when they put a plank under the car, then they've gone further downhill with silly stuff like grooved tyres...

    It's funny how Ferrari, who are the dirtiest players in the circus, are accusing the cleanest players - sore losers?! Oh, sorry, they're just playing the dirty game as per usual. Next week, nobody cares.

    Naah, racing - watch Superbikes or MotoGP. :)

  12. Dillon Pyron

    Italian courts again

    Aren't these the same courts that want to try Sir Frank in Ayrton Senna's death? Half media whore, half witch hunter.

    I'm sure Ferrari is no stranger to industrial espionage.

    Given the less than sterling performance of Ferrari this year, one of two things happened. The value of the material wasn't particularly high. Or, whoever took it left no evidence of it ever existing so that Ferrari couldn't use it.

  13. J

    Cheats or not...

    Coincidence. Well, I've read elsewhere (in a language you probably don't understand, but don't worry, it's not Italian :) that McLaren has known of this since April. McLaren is saying they've been investigating since then, and just decided to put Coughlan aside now that said investigations are complete. Or whatever. Funny, just as the... oil hits the fan. If Ferrari only got out with this in, say, September, I wonder whether McLaren wouldn't have extended their quiet investigations for a few more months...

    Second interesting coincidence, McLaren was being beaten easily at the beginning of the season, before April... Then they made some "aerodynamic modifications", and got much faster in high speed circuits (ignore Monaco here, that's always a point out of the curve anyway) -- exactly those where Ferrari regularly did well. Now that the industrial espionage came to light, they got behind again... (see the beating they took in France) so let's see how it goes next Sunday and beyond. Interesting. Let the conspiracy theories flourish! :O)

    Now, don't take me wrong. It's not about McLaren particularly. I think any team will do the same if they (think they) can get away with it.

    And finally (phew, 4th July, a lot of time to spare), remember these industrial secrets don't change hands without lots of cash changing hands too. So either Coughlan is pretty rich and loves the team enough to spend from his pockets or someone higher up is footing the bill.


  14. John Colby

    Lowest common denominator again

    Why is it that it is again suggested that we think in terms of equality? Does not excellence in engineering together with innovation and enterprise count any more? Does every playing field have to be so level that there is only one differentiator?

    Sorry, Giles, it appears you're in a minority.

  15. Giles Jones Gold badge


    While the money has been part of the sport for a while, the sport is going the way football is. Very expensive tickets, very high salaries for the drivers. You can go and see a lot more interesting racing many times a year for the cost of going to see F1.

    While some appreciate the technical aspects, it's surely about the driving. The technical competition means nothing when one season you will get one set of drivers winning and the next season another, proving that with a few exceptions it is the cars that make the difference.

    The best designers move between the teams and so there's not all that much competition at times.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prue Irony! I love it!

    All this time... those frakking idiots have been slamming Ferrari... saying they are losing it.. saying they are cheats.... saying they are cruel.

    And what happens... the icon... the joy... the most raved about team... suddenly looks even worse than the monster that people call Ferrari.

    I personally am a big time fan of Ferrari (im not obsessed of course). I personaly think FIA has had it in for Ferrari since 2 to 3 years ago... dumbing down the technologey in the racing to slow the cars down.... taking away traction control and several other really cool pieces of equipment that we today enjoy the fruits of in our own cars since the olden days. Formula 1 should be a multi billion dollar research project with a kick... racing.... not something similar to NASCAR.... If I was interestead in just the racing.. I'd watch NASCAR.

    No offense to fans of NASCAR... just I prefer something with high tech and more challengeing than just going in ciricles.

    Its sad however... Lewis Hammilton rocks.... big time... he's broken records every race.... and now we find out McLaren has stolen tech (allegedy).

    The fact there's rumors/acusations of corruption and what not wil be enough to embarrass FIA to slapping them around... to save face.

    I look forward to the next couple of races....

    Ferrari should be hailed as an outstanding example of research... just because they win dosen't mean other teams cant... they win becasue they do their homework and can afford it..... other teams don't have that kind of power... yet they do just as good if not better in several cases.

    People get jealous of that ferrari tends to dominate the scene... they should consider how and why... not that they do it period.

    The teams get so jealous they scruitinize every nut and bolt ferrari changes... and when they do something so revelutionary... they scream at FIA and FIA peanlizes them or makes a new rule about it. All a big fat Frase.

    Ferrari has played some nasty tricks in the past... I won't deny it... but so have others... I beleave someones already pointed out that the majority of Formula 1 is about how clever you are in your tech....

    Drivers are not what makes the car win... they are a importaint component of the car yes.... but the car...the research.. the engineering...right down to the joe who holds that "lolipop" stick in front of the driver to let him know when its time to rocket out of pit lane... each one has an importaint role in racing. The Driver is not the most importaint thing... but only one of the most importaint things...

    theres my 2 cents and a nickle.

  17. heystoopid

    But then again

    But then again , Formula One cars are not rocket science , and have virtually reached the ultimate limit of today's technology for Internal Combustion Engines made of metal , so parallel development ideas would not be unheard of in that field given so few options and directions left!

    But hey the race is dying at the same rate the cancer stick makers and sponsors are losing the market, given the current rapidly declining viewer ratings throughout the world . Further in many countries where the races are run in public streets , the general populace wish they would cease and desist running these unpopular noisy annoying events anyway!

    Sadly , the race is now well past it's use by date and should be consigned to the pages of history books where it belongs!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To Whoever Wrote - Prue Irony! I love it!

    Your obviously just a Ferrari fanboy cause if you had any clue you would realise FIA rules have been swayed Ferrari's way for a long time - Max Mosley knows it, Bernie Ecclestone knows it and now you too Ferrari fanboy know it too. Mosley and Ecclestone are Ferrari fanboys too - they've admitted as much themselves. Ferrari should receive more money from the FOM TV rights money cause they invented the sport? Cause they're the oldest team in F1? (that won't cut much with Cambridge United when it comes to dealing with Championship TV rights money!

    To quote you "they win becasue they do their homework and can afford it..... other teams don't have that kind of power" yeah that's because it's the F1 management who are Ferrari fanboys like you saying - f**k everybody else who particpates in the sport, let's give the oldest team most of the money - who just happen to be Ferrari - oh yeah by the way they happen to be my favorite team too! Why do you think Schumacher went to Ferrari of all the teams? Cause they got most of the f**king money!!! Why do you think other teams wanted to break away!?!? It's only cause all the other teams wanted to break away and set up their own series that things will change from next year money-wise...

    Jesus, You dumb Ferrari Fanboys get on my tits...

  19. Dr. Mouse

    Re: All too serious

    1) There are investigations underway, we cannot be sure that McLaren cheated. Ever heard of 'Innocent until proven guilty'? I'm not defending them if they have profited from industrial espionage, but shouldnt we reserve judgement?

    2) A1GP is all well and good, but what about the technical people out there, like me, who follow F1 as much for the engineering behind the cars as the race itself. It is a team sport, where everyone contributes, from engineers to pit crew to tacticians to the driver. I actualy think the rules on technical developement are much to strict, and the teams should be able to persue new engine technologies, etc... and push the frontier of engineering. That is how we have had a lot of the advancement in the motor industry in the past, by motor sport taking things right to the edge of posibility. But every time a team gets an advantage by new technology, the FIA bans it!

    If the sport went the way of A1/GP2 etc I would stop watching. And there are many who feel the same.

  20. Frank Bough

    Typical Italian Nonsense

    This is all just Ferrari playing politics - they've come up with a brilliant wheeze as to how to sack Stepney without paying off his contract - stop him going straight to McLaren AND drag McLaren through the dirt at the same time. If it wasn't so pathetic it would be brilliant. They've been behaving like this for decades now, sport doesn't even come into it. Unfortunately, the FIA buys into all of their bullshit about F1 not being the same without Ferrari.

  21. Gavin Nottage

    Just a moment

    You do know that Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan worked together at Benetton and Ferrari, and are thus friends. So if they met up in April, and Nigel says take a look at this aero on the new Ferrari, and Mike says thanks, it doesn't mean that McLaren suddenly have used that information. A simple FIA check through the changes to the car from April will reveal if the info has been used, and by whom. Seeing that it takes time to actually fabricate parts, test them and find them beneficial and thus make some more to go into use for a race, McLaren's upturn in form is highly unlikely to have come from this source (IMHO, but I await the official verdict). This years cars are now only using Bridgestones, and McLaren seem to have worked out how to get them working well on their car for Canada/USA. Now Ferrari with their longer wheelbase car are getting a benefit in France, and possibly the British GP this weekend. Just like Honda improved in France, at least with Button.

    F1 is very technical, to me it should stay at the cutting edge. A1GP is there, GP2 is there for those who don't want to see so much decided by engineers. But the best drivers will get into F1, although not always into the team of the moment. If you think lower formulae are without technical input, then recall how Senna was annoyed that Brundle had been given a better tune of engine in Formula Ford (I think), and was thus leading the championship. Ayrton made sure he got the same engine and then could beat Martin.

  22. Tony Rogers

    Wacky Races

    Darstadly and Mutley must be rolling about on the floor by now.

    As I recall, the plots were more devious and the driving more entertaining !

    F1, The news highlights are as much of the race as I would wish to waste time on

  23. Paul

    Driver aids

    > taking away traction control and several other really cool pieces of equipment

    And good bloody riddance to (at least some of) them.

    I don't think F1 should be a field of identical cars, there are plenty of single-spec race series which satisfy the "best driver wins" criteria. F1 *is* as much about the technology of the cars as the driver's skill, but there's a point where a line has to be drawn, and the driver's skill level *should* be the deciding factor.

    Driver aids like traction control and ABS have absolutely NO place in a race car of any class. It doesn't take much skill to accelerate or brake "on the edge" when you've got these technologies to stop you from spinning or locking the wheels, just jam your foot as hard as you can on the pedal at the appropriate moment and let the CPU do all the thinking. That's fine for the average person who just wants to get from A to B a couple of times a day without making an insurance claim, but the whole point is that the drivers who make it in F1 are *not* average; they're supposed to be the best of the best, and they get paid a hell of a lot of money to be better drivers than I, with my piece o'crap Taurus that has no traction control and dysfunctional ABS, should need to be.

    Besides, with traction control you'd never have moments like Jean Alesi drifting sideways round a corner with one hand on the wheel and the other furiously waving a fist at the slower driver he'd just lapped. :-)

  24. Andy Enderby

    Bernie and Max ?

    Dastardley and Mutley ? Oh you mean Bernie and Max - in that order.

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