24 November 2022
Nigel Stepney, one of the key figures in Ferrari’s all-conquering F1 team, which won five world titles with Michael Schumacher in the 2000s, was killed in a mysterious road accident in Ashford, Kent.
A subsequent Coroner’s inquest concluded it was a suicide but also said they had ‘found no reason for Mr Stepney to take his own life’, and recorded an open conclusion.
In 2014, Stepney, who was 56 years old, was perhaps best remembered for his part in the 2007 ‘Spygate’ scandal. He passed 780 pages of intellectual property relating to the design and operation of 2007 Ferrari F1 cars to McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, a scandal that ended up with McLaren being fined US $100 million by the FIA, of which Max Mosley was president.
So, the story goes; Mike Coughlan wanted a copy of the document, his wife took it to a local photocopy shop, and the employee at the shop ‘smelt a rat’ and contacted Ferrari with a resultant explosion.
McLaren had their points in the 2007 F1 Constructors Championship stripped; however, McLaren’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were allowed to keep their points.
It is no secret that there was a mutual distaste between Max Mosley and Ron Dennis, boss of McLaren; this disdain had been 30 years in the making.
Rumour has it that Mr Mosley said to Ron Dennis, ‘$5m of the fine was for what you did, and the other $95m for being a xxxx!’
In one of the more curious episodes of recent times, Ferrari accused Stepney of trying to sabotage one of the cars by putting powder in the fuel tank.