Nigel Stepney is a British-born former Formula One mechanic. He is currently the team manager and chief mechanic of JRM Racing, which competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He started in Formula One as a mechanic at Shadow in 1977, then followed Elio de Angelis to Lotus before moving to Benetton for the late 1980s and early 90s and then to Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn. He was Chief Mechanic at Ferrari and later became Race and Test Technical Manager.
At the 2000 Spanish Grand Prix, Stepney was injured during a pit stop for Michael Schumacher's car. This occurred when the German was signaled to depart while Stepney was still detaching the fuel rig. He suffered badly damaged ligaments to his ankle. On 1 February 2007 it was reported on the Internet that Stepney was unhappy with Ferrari's technical restructuring and that he wanted to leave the team, seeking a new challenge. However, Ferrari's spokesman, Luca Colajanni, reported on Pitpass' website that he had a contract until the end of the 2007 season and that he was therefore staying at Ferrari.
On 23 February 2007, Stepney was promoted to Head of the performance development, meaning that he would no longer have to attend races.
On 21 June it was reported that Stepney was the subject of a criminal inquiry by the Modena district attorney, initiated after Ferrari reportedly made a formal complaint. No reason for the investigation was given, with the specifics of the complaint not being released to the public. A Ferrari spokesman told Reuters "It is not related to any event; it is related to his behaviour." It was later reported that this was due to the team finding a white residue powder in the fuel tanks of their cars post the Monaco Grand Prix, where they finished third and eighth. He was also accused of selling Ferrari parts to competing teams. He has since denied the accusations and has claimed to be the victim of a "dirty tricks campaign".
On 3 July Stepney was dismissed by Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. Later the same day Ferrari announced it was taking legal action against Stepney and a McLaren engineer named by Autosport.com as Mike Coughlan; A Ferrari press release stated:
|“||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. Furthermore, legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued concerning the engineer. This produced a positive outcome.||”|
On his return from holiday in the Philippines on 5 July, Stepney was interrogated by the Italian police as part of the industrial espionage case. On 6 July Honda F1 released a statement confirming that Stepney and Coughlan approached the team regarding "job opportunities" in June 2007. Since the revelation of Coughlan's involvement in the affair McLaren provided a full set of drawings and development documents to the FIA, detailing all updates made to the team's chassis since the incident occurred at the end of April.
On 4 October 2007, in a complete twist to the 2007 Formula One espionage controversy, Nigel Stepney issued a statement claiming that he had received key information about McLaren's set-up, pit-stops, weight distribution and other aspects of various parts of their car when he was still a Ferrari employee and said that Ferrari had gotten off lightly.
Investigation and Career after Ferrari
On 22 January 2008 it was announced that Stepney had been recruited by Gigawave, a manufacturer of on-board racing car camera systems who are also fielding a team in the 2008 FIA GT Championship, as Director of Race Technologies.
On 7 March 2008 the FIA issued a statement urging teams and those holding FIA issued licenses not to hire Nigel Stepney "Without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motor sport".
RECOMMENDATION RE: NIGEL STEPNEY
07.03.2008In its investigations of last year regarding the unauthorised use of intellectual property within Formula One, the FIA heard allegations that Mr. Nigel Stepney, then employed by Ferrari, had passed confidential Ferrari information to an employee of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Mr. Stepney has admitted this allegation and apologised to the FIA, though he disputes the seriousness and extent of his involvement. As Stepney is not a licence-holder of the FIA, no formal action may be taken against him under the International Sporting Code (though the FIA is co-operating with the Italian police, who are investigating Mr. Stepney's actions). As a matter of good order, the FIA recommends to its licensees that they do not professionally collaborate with Mr. Stepney without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motor sport. This recommendation stands until 1 July 2009.
However, the restriction was lifted on 6 February 2009, with FIA President Max Mosley claiming that Stepney and Coughlan had only been "minor players" in the scandal.
On 29 September 2010, Stepney was sentenced to 20 months in prison and handed a €600 fine for his part in the spy affair, after being found guilty of “sabotage, industrial espionage, sporting fraud and attempted serious injury". The sentence was reportedly reduced after he entered a plea bargain. However under the Italian legal system it is believed to be unlikely that he will serve the sentence.
- "THE TEAMS JRM Racing". Retrieved 15 Oct 2012.
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- "Stepney moves in Ferrari reshuffle", Haymarket, 23 February 2007; retrieved 21 June 2007
- Noble, Jonathan Noble; Goren, Biranit. Ferrari's Stepney faces criminal enquiry autosport.com, Haymarket, 2007-06-21; retrieved 21 June 2007
- Peake, Alex (2007-06-22). "F1 Ferraris 'sabotaged by Brit'". London: The Sun newspaper. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
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- Noble, Jonathan; Goren, Biranit (2007-07-03). "McLaren suspect is Mike Coughlan". www.autosport.com (Haymarket). Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- Noble, Jonathan; Goren, Biranit (2007-07-03). "Ferrari confirm action against McLaren man". www.autosport.com (Haymarket). Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- "Stepney 'Astonished' During Formula One Three-Hour Espionage Interrogation". paddocktalk.com. 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- "Honda was approached by spy suspects". www.itv-f1.com (ITV Network). 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- "Stepney signed by Gigawave company". autosport.com. 2008-01-22.
- Cary, Tom (2009-02-06). "FIA president Max Mosley knows whodunnit in News of the World sting". London: www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
- "Stepney appointed team manager of Sumo Power GT". gt1world.com. 2010-08-27. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
- "Stepney sentenced over spy affair". www.autosport.com. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
- "Stepney given prison sentence". www.itv-f1.com. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2010-10-01.