Debate: Stepney scandal good for F1?

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Ferrari-McLaren scandal, Stepney-gate, the Ferrari espionage affair – call it what you will, everyone’s talking about it.

Lewis Hamilton may be big news in the back pages of newspapers but the increasingly strange details of industrial espionage between F1’s two top teams is commanding column inches in the front pages.

Every top sport from football to NASCAR knows the importance of controversy for staying in the limelight. So might this scandal actually raise F1’s profile?

Don’t get me wrong – the allegations being made are very serious and if anyone has stolen information from one team and passed it on to another they deserve to be punished.

But “every cloud has a silver lining” and I actually think this could have positive benefits for F1.

Not only does it keep the sport in the public eye but it highlights just how cut-throat competitive it is.

So is Stepney-gate a good thing?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Debate: Stepney scandal good for F1?”

  1. yes. at the moment it’s not hurting the image of the sport. the minute it does – probably at the point Stepney figures he has nothing to lose and starts talking openly to the media about ‘bodies’ – max will play the “disrepute” card and make it all go away.

    plus it keeps the season interesting.

  2. good for F1 at the moment, good for media and bloggers, not so good for Stepney, Coughlan and it remains to be seen what impact it will have on McLaren … If some McLaren involvement as a team surfaces it may affect the outcome of the championship and that definitelly would not be good for F1 …

  3. Well I’m gonna be Devil’s Advocate then and say no, Stepney-gate isn’t good for F1. Surely F1 should be in the limelight for good reasons, such as great racing, drivers with personalities, lots of overtaking, a variety of winners etc..?

    Also, Formula One could be about to lose two important people; Stepney and Coughlin. That can’t be good for the sport, can it? Losing a talented designer and whatever role Stepney ended up doing at the factory cannot be a good thing.

  4. Oh, and I echo milos’s statement above about the championship being affected. If the FIA deduct points from McLaren (or any other team) because if this, irregardless of whether or not it is fair to punish them, it will be detrimental to the sport. Fans do not like to see changes made to the points gained after they have been earned. If Max alters the tables, there will be a backlash. The team, if necessary, should be punished in another way (fined, thrown out of the 2007 Constructors (ala Schumacher 1997) etc…).

  5. “Good for media and bloggers” (Milos) – you’re not kidding! :-)

  6. I don’t think its good for F1 at all. Maybe good if you are selling newspapers.

  7. I dunno, maybe I’m naive but the whole business makes me sick. It may be good for getting more of an audience for F1 but what kind of an audience? Those who come to ogle the road accident will be gone once it’s cleared away.

    And in the meantime my illusions of F1 being a sport receive further pounding. Consider this: there are only two possibilities – either two of F1’s most respected engineers and designers have stooped to the sordid level of industrial espionage or Ferrari have become so vindictive towards a disaffected employee that they cooked up the whole business to discredit him.

    Either way, it stinks and, once again, I am ashamed of what F1 has become.

  8. The impression I get from people who aren’t watching F1 is that until F1 stops being processional and the political infighting stops, they won’t watch F1. This story does absolutely nothing about the first point and reinforces the doubters’ negative opinion of the latter. It won’t even attract the road-accident oglers – they demand action, and legal arguments don’t fit the bill. It also lowers the opinion supporters have of F1.

    So it’s bad for everyone – except the people that milos identified; the media and the bloggers. After all, it’s more material for them, and blogs never have bad news stories, only bad interpretation of news stories. When it’s as slow-burning a case as this, even bad interpretations tend to get temporarily excused (not that you’re likely to see any here, I hasten to add…)

  9. But alianora, what sport DOESN’T have controversy? In racing, NASCAR had the Hendrick suspension, IRL has those driver fights becoming frequent, WRC had that Toyota DSQ a decade ago.

    Outside racing? NBA stars keeping getting involved in brawls, hockey had THAT lockout, while baseball, cycling, American football, and wrestling are all dealing with steroids.

    Actually, F1 is kinda lucky that it hasn’t had serious long-term problems. It’s only had the occasional glitch (like Indy ’05 or Jerez ’97). But other than that, politics has stayed out of racing’s way… for the most part, anyway.

    So is the Stepney scandal good for F1? The story makes for a good read. But in terms of viewing audiences, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.

  10. I hear that synchronised swimming is pretty unblemished so far. But does anyone actually watch that…?

  11. Until it does not increase overtaking,it doesn’t do me any good.Admittingly,being a Mclaren fan I am tense about everything but seriously does it even matter on raceday?Sure,you can tell me that X component of Mclaren is same as Y component of Ferrari but there are other teams on track and if the whole race is going to be like a parade lap,I don’t care.That is not what I want to be thinking on those odd weekends.I would chose race won by strategy over a scandal any day.

    Question should be:Is Stepneygate good for F1’s PR?

    I don’t see how my friend who does not watch racing or politics,will be so bloody interested in it just because one team is copying stuff from one another team.Especially when he thinks that all F1 cars look very identical to each other.

    Back in 2005,the US GP was nominated for Sporting Moment of The Year at the Laureus Sport Awards.SPORTING?And we had a far better race in Japan later in the year and that was overlooked.In my opinion,Japan would have served as a much better poster boy(or poster race…whatever) but it was overlooked.

    So think about it,do we really want to see F1 been brought on to the pages be popularised by scandals?I think not.

  12. It is interesting reading but,I don’t think anything that tarnishes the reputation of a sport is good.We have Barry Bonds here in the States to break the home run record in baseball after admitting steroid use,now that the media interest in the story is over no one wants to see this cheater break our Hank Aaron’s well deserved place in the Hall of Fame.

  13. …if this effects a two time world champion and the mighty new rookie then,it is not worth juicy gossip.

  14. There is a difference between sports that occasionally have controversies (most of which do not get in the way of sporting competition) and the impression that a lot of the non-F1 viewers have, which is to say that there are more controversies in F1 than there are races, and that many of them spoil the racing. That’s their (slightly paraphrased) opinion I’m reporting, by the way. It is within that background that the Stepney controversy is harmful.

    If, like most other sports, the Stepney thing would have been the first, second or third controversial event, some sort of positive result might have been possible. There is a point, however, when the “all PR is good PR” positive line is outweighed by the effects of the “not another dodgy event” negative line. Look at cricket or horse racing if you want proof of this – both have had problems with negative PR in the last few years, and both have had to fight hard to get their reputations back.

  15. I don’t think casual fans latch on to the majority of controversies that go on in F1. When one like this hits the front pages of the papers it’s big news. It’s on a whole other scale to Renault’s mass dampers, or Alonso’s qualifying penalty at Monza last year.

  16. The old adage is that any publicity is good publicity. As this may affect the precious Lewis then it is getting more than it’s fair share of attention in the British media.

    Depending on the outcome, it may soon be forgotten by the masses – unless it dents Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes in any way, in which case it will never be laid to rest!

  17. Make you right Craig,

    If this was football, the FIA would have to go into hiding in fear of their lives if they take points from Lewis, thankfully it’s not.

    Ugly things happen in all sport, i would imagine that FIA would be right cheesed off with this one landing on their plate, i cant see any decision made will satisfy everyone, i hope Ron’s got a big enough hanky

  18. Scandals are a necessary yet unfortunate evil in all walks of life.

    It seems however, no scandal is big enough to shake F1 in it’s Bridgestone-shod boots.

    I think if we knew everything about what goes on behind closed doors, we’d probably be shocked, but ultimately get used to it.

    Espionage will never cease to exist in F1. There will always be some form of it, whether studying a front wing design through binoculars or doing it using other sophisticated ways.

    One team always wants to know what the other does, especially if that advantage translates to good results on track.

    Think about it. How does one team know that another is operating outside or on the border of the rules when it comes to say, elements of an aero package?

    By watching (spying) on them.

    Only difference is, they inform the FIA by launching a protest against the offending team and sparking an investigation, instead of taking the information and possibly gaining the same advantage.

    If Ferrari could gain something from this scandal in court as far as the 07 championship, they will.

    All is fair in love and war, and in F1 spying is part of it.
    Only the names and faces of the people involved change, and THIS year the spies were caught.

    What makes it a scandal for F1 is the extent of the information involved.

  19. bernie's nemesis
    3rd August 2007, 13:00

    I don’t think anything is happening here that hasn’t happened probably every year in F1, just Ferrari have more weight to throw about.

    As the only engine and chassis manufacturer, with so much history, there can be no doubt that Ferrari have had the ball fall their side of the line a few times. Ecclestone and Mosely have been seen too many times to not be impartial.

    Espionage in formula one is like drug taking in cycling. It’s endemic.
    And I suspect that scandals like this (along with race fixing) are only going to have a similar responce as the continual tour de France sagas.

    The point drawn up by Clive (letter 7) is the most worrying.
    I believe that this stuff happens regularly, but on a different scale. So if the two colluded, surely a top designer has better resources and more intelligence than to take hundreds of pages of classified material to the local pronta-print?

    If Ferrari were trying to kill two birds with one stone- rid themselves of disaffected employee without paying compensation for breach of contract, and blame somebody else for the reason they are not winning?
    Well pretty low, but this is the country of serie A scandal and the ridiculous punishments that followed.

  20. Really? It’s terrible for F1 image, it shows thigs that are soooo anti-sportive. Also the punishment going ONLY to the team was another big clown party, the pilots new! They should have been punished too.
    Declassified forever! Expelled from the sport as an example. Really, I been very very ungry about this. This kind of thing should be strongly punished. Set example FIA.

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