Stepney says not to blame for leaked data

MILAN (Reuters) - Former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney continued to protest his innocence on Tuesday regarding the Formula One spying controversy.

In this file photo former F1 world champion Michael Schumacher of Germany (L) and Ferrari chief mechanic Nigel Stepney chat in their pit garage at the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo, March 29, 2001. The Brazilian Grand Prix will be held at Interlagos on April 1. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Stepney was accused of passing Ferrari information to McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who has since been suspended by the world championship leaders.

“I did not take any designs away from Ferrari. Someone passed on the designs but it wasn’t me,” Stepney told Italy’s La Repubblica.

“I do not want to involve other colleagues. I know one part of the story, not all. Ferrari know the whole story.”

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) ruled last week that although McLaren had Ferrari data in their possession, there was insufficient evidence that they had gained any benefit from it, therefore no penalty was imposed.

However, the FIA reserved the right to punish McLaren if further proof emerged with exclusion from the 2007 and 2008 championships. It said it may also ban Stepney and Coughlan.

Ferrari have taken legal action in Italy and England against Britons Coughlan and Stepney.

The Italian action against Stepney, who was sacked by Ferrari, is set to progress after court officials in Ferrari’s home town of Modena returned from holiday.

The action includes accusations of sabotage against Stepney.

Italian and British media have mentioned a mysterious white powder that was allegedly found in the petrol tanks of the Ferrari race cars six days before this year’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Ferrari have not commented on the matter but Stepney said he had been set up.

“They put the powder in my trouser pocket while I was taking a shower,” Stepney said without stating who he meant by “they”.

“I am ready to be heard (by the court) at any moment,” added Stepney, who said he had already found another job far away from Italy and Formula One.

McLaren are 27 points clear of Ferrari with seven races remaining in a championship led by their 22-year-old British rookie Lewis Hamilton.

His team mate, double world champion Fernando Alonso, is two points adrift, with Ferrari’s Brazilian Felipe Massa third, a further nine points back.