‘Spygate’ protagonist Stepney killed in car crash

F1 Fanatic Round-up

Posted on

| Written by

In the round-up: Nigel Stepney, who worked for Benetton, Lotus and Ferrari and gained notoriety after his involvement in the ‘spygate’ affair, has died aged 56.

F1 Fanatic Live this weekend

F1 Fanatic Live will be running during the Spa Six Hours on Saturday and the three BTCC races from Thruxton on Sunday. Here’s when you can join in:

  • WEC Six Hours of Spa Francorchamps – Saturday, 1:00pm
  • BTCC Thruxton race one – Sunday, 12:12pm
  • BTCC Thruxton race one – Sunday, 2:23pm
  • BTCC Thruxton race one – Sunday, 5:17pm


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Nigel Stepney 1958 – 2014 (JRM)

“JRM regrets to announce that Nigel Stepney, the company’s racing team manager and technical director, was killed in a car accident this morning. He was 56 years-old and leaves his loving partner and daughter, Ash and Sabine Stepney.”

Former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney dies after being hit by truck (The Guardian)

“Kent police said in a separate statement that a 56-year-old was hit by a truck at 1.28am after stopping his van on the hard shoulder of the M20 motorway at Ashford.”

F1 teams step away from cost-cutting clash (Reuters)

Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley: “Force India was very encouraged by the meeting and was appreciative of the FIA (International Automobile Federation) responding so positively to the letter that was sent.”

‘Penalty points are working’ (Sky)

“Maybe at the end of this year we might have to change a few things. Maybe the amount of penalty points for certain incidents – maybe some are too high, some are too low. [FIA Race Director] Charlie [Whiting]’s very good at looking at the end of the season and maybe changing that slightly.”

Blackmail claims ‘like nailing pudding to a wall’ (The Telegraph)

“In the second day of proceedings in Munich, prosecutors claimed there is little evidence of what form this threat took.”

Smedley: Williams hasn’t shot its bolt (Autosport)

“To say that all is lost, because we haven’t capitalised on having a quick car in the winter would indicate that is it – that we have shot our bolt. Well absolutely not.”

Subway Targeting 1.5 Million New Customers With Formula One Sponsorship (Forbes)

“Following the disclosure of Subway’s interest in F1, it has come to light that one of the most attractive aspects of a partnership with the race series would be the opportunity for it to install concessions at each of the 19 Grands Prix.”

Senna: What Bernie really said to Leonardo Senna (Betise Sports World)

“I turned to Leo and, in the most gentle and caring way I could master at the time, and said: ‘I am really sorry to have to translate that to you but Bernie [Ecclestone] is telling us Ayrton has died.'”

Survival of the richest is no way to run a sport (The Times, subscription required)

“…the difference in payments from top to bottom of the [English football] Premiership is a ratio of about 1.5 to 1, with Manchester United, last season’s champions, receiving about £60 million to the near £40 million handed over the Wigan Athletic – who also won the FA Cup last season, by the way. In F1, that ratio between top to bottom is about 8.5 to one…”

Details about Honda F1 Super Aguri 2007 F1 Anthony Davidson race car rolling chassis (eBay)

“Offered for sale is this Super Aguri/Honda 2007 F1 race car converted to simulator.”


Comment of the day

An interesting recollection about how long it took Fernando Alonso’s success to register in his home country:

I had just ridden over the Pyrenees into Spain on the day he won his first grand prix in Hungary, 2003.

At the campsite I had to ask the barman to turn on the TV, seeing Alonso leading I tried to get the message across that he was a Spaniard, the guy just shrugged and ignored it, I doubt that would happen now.

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to J.Danzig!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

Ken Tyrrell was born 90 years ago today. He founded the team which took Jackie Stewart to each of his three world championships – the first with a Matra, the other with Tyrrell’s own cars.

Tyrrell’s sole constructors’ championship victory came in 1971. They finished in the top three for the last time in 1976, using the radical six-wheeled P34 which scored a single victory in that year’s Swedish Grand Prix.

They won their last race in 1983, and 15 years later Tyrrell stood down after selling his entry to British American Tobacco who formed a new team, BAR.

Tyrrell succumbed to cancer in 2001, and since then BAR has transformed into Mercedes by way of Honda (2006-08) and Brawn (2009).

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

73 comments on “‘Spygate’ protagonist Stepney killed in car crash”

  1. boooo subway boooo.

    1. What’s wrong with subway?

      1. Their sandwiches.

    2. At least the fickle boo-boys have moved on from Vettel.

      Wonder how much a sub would cost at a Grand Prix? £12? £15?

      1. That’s the real deal, the price of a whole Grand Prix weekend risin up with these kinds of deals. For a subway, yep from 8 to 20 euros I guess…

    3. Yes, Seb is not winning anymore so we gotta boo something else…

      1. Lets Boooooooooo Seb for notwinning,

  2. It’s amazing to see the complete lack of consensus on a speed figure on the newspapers covering Senna’s crash – all unsurprisingly innacurate.

    1. I didn’t realise this until you pointed it out. I would have thought something like the speed of the impact would have been fact checked. In any case, that is the state of journalism, “publish it now!”…

    2. I noticed this too. Not good

  3. It is terribly sad news to hear of Nigel Stepney today. He will be remembered largely by most on this forum for his involvement in the spygate scandal, however, I’ll remember him for his involvement in the Ferrari super team that was spearheaded by Schumacher in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
    I send my condolences to Nigel’s family and friends.

    1. Spanish truck?

  4. Subway should start off by sponsoring the Abu Dhabi pitlane. ;)

    1. @calum It’s funny because they can now, after banning pork products in their outlets.

      1. I hate when people use the word ‘ban’ for something which couldn’t in any way be considered as such. In fewer than 10% of their outlets, Subway have changed the menu to a Halal menu, to reflect the largely Muslim communities they serve. Nothing has been banned by anyone, any more than a chinese restaurant could be thought of as ‘banning’ lasagne. They tailor their product to the market, like any successful business.

        Too much white entitlement making people think it’s an outrage, just because it’s a change not made for the exclusive benefit of white non-muslims.

        1. Well said! But maybe better to just say non-Muslims than “white” non-Muslims.

        2. well said indeed @mazdachris. There is nothing wrong, or rather its the perfect way I want my outlets to anticipate. Why would they sell stuff no one would want to eat (or would maybe want but then get in trouble from eating when they realise what it was), instead of catering to the local markets.

        3. yeah…they should ban the word ban.

    2. They need a double footlong though

      1. They have it, well a 6 footer..

  5. How can Warwick conclude that the penalty points system is working? This early in the season I see no evidence either for or against the system – and I haven’t changed my opinion that a series of minor infringements should not lead to a race ban.

  6. RIP Nigel Stepney :( always sad to lose a member of the F1 community.

  7. Why does it have to be so sensationalist like “Spygate protagonist”? Why can’t it just said “Nigel Stepney” or “Former Ferrari Engineer Nigel Stepney”?

    1. I would say that it’s autosport’s aim but that’s day to day in the UK.

      1. Just the way they treat information and people in UK press.

    2. + 1. The header of this article is just wrong.

    3. Yeah . The man’s dead . Talk something nice about him , at least for the time being .

    4. Unless it was somehow connected to the Spygate saga. You know, Luca sending the long hand of justice after Nigel, after all this years, in the line with the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold”.

      But we all know that didn’t happen. Ferrari doesn’t make trucks.

      1. halifaxf1fan
        3rd May 2014, 16:58

        Nor do they make photocopiers but they had someone operating one!

        Rest in peace Nigel Stepney.

    5. Totally agree with Toxic, the guy is a engineer with a family and a life outside F1. Another cheesy journalism trick to pull readers. Disappointed to see it on here, it didn’t need to be reproduced. Condolences to his family

    6. Agree, this one’s a bit over the top

    7. I agree this title is just plain wrong, hope Keith changes it to something more appropriate, not to say that Keith did this on purpose, it’s probably just a bad choice of words.

    8. I think the title is ok. Unfortunately, he is most publicly recognised and remembered as the main protagonist in spy gate, so in order to make sure the maximum number of people are aware who he’s talking about, Keith mention’s it in the title. In the same way if Nick Griffin were to die, headlines would say BNP leader Nick griffin dies, despite being leader of the BNP being a bad thing!

    9. @peartree @hamilfan @funkyf1 @andae23 @force-maikel @jleigh

      What happened yesterday was obviously a tragedy. Regardless of his significance to us, Nigel Stepney was a husband and father, and it’s clear from the reaction on social media the esteem he was held in by those who knew him.

      His F1 career spanned almost three decades and included stints alongside some great drivers (Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher) and involvement in one of the most successful teams ever (Ferrari 2000-2004). But the sad truth is his role in ‘spygate’ (and Ferrari’s associated accusations of sabotage) is what he became famous for. That was seven years ago now, and since then he has not been involved in F1.

      That being so, it’s to be expected that some people would see a headline referring to ‘Stepney’ and not know who he is. Hence the decision to refer to the aspect of his F1 career for which he is most well-known. There will be many people who recall that episode but not the names of those involved. This is merely giving the largest number of people the salient details in a manner which they will most readily understand.

      To use another example from this year, when John Button died I could have referred to him as a former rallycross driver. But most people knew him as Jenson Button’s father.

      In the case of Stepney I appreciate some people may feel uncomfortable about immediately associating him with a period in his life which was not positive. But choosing to ignore it would take us into problematic territory – how big an indiscretion do we choose to overlook in these circumstances? I think we can all appreciate this kind of reasoning would quickly lead to problems.

      I appreciate the feedback and I want to stress I am saddened by this news. I hope that by explaining why I’ve referred to it the way I have you can appreciate no disrespect is intended.

      1. John Button’s case is different, since being a father of Jenson is his only connection to F1, hence it’s logical to mention that in a headline. Stepney however has many F1 connections to choose from, even some positive ones. The headline as it is shows bad taste.

        1. @huhhii

          Stepney however has many F1 connections to choose from, even some positive ones.

          But less well known ones, which brings me back to my point.

          The headline as it is shows bad taste.

          No it isn’t – again I refer you to my penultimate paragraph.

      2. Ex Ferrari engineer killed in car accident would have surely been a more interesting and tasteful headline.

        1. @funkyf1
          A random engineer dying wouldn’t be worthy of national news though. We probably wouldn’t even have heard of it. Stepney had a huge effect on the ’07/’08 championships because of the spygate scandal, that’s what he’s known for.

      3. I wasn’t criticizing you @keithcollantine . Your tweet yesterday had just the tweak to separate it from the other media outlets.

      4. I don’t know his name from Spygate either so Stepney RIP with his bio would have been fine, but that is for me.

      5. all clear! don´t need to explain really, but thanks…

      6. “I appreciate the feedback and I want to stress I am saddened by this news. I hope that by explaining why I’ve referred to it the way I have you can appreciate no disrespect is intended.”

        @keithcollantine – firstly, I think it was considerate of you to acknowledge the concerns of your critics here in this instance and explain your rationale (which is fairly utilitarian and noncontroversial, imo).

        secondly, earlier today I was shocked to read some recklessly-speculative (and frankly, offensive) comments here suggesting insight into the circumstances of Stepney’s death that were impossible to defend in good taste or substantiate. Comment moderation is not something i would normally applaud outside of obvious violations of community guidelines , but for once, in this case, I’m glad you deleted the OP’s remarks and the string of incredulous and (justifiably) unhappy replies that followed…

    10. Might sound rude but it isn’t wrong, is it?

      1. @keithcollantine

        “I appreciate some people may feel uncomfortable about immediately associating him with a period in his life which was not positive. But choosing to ignore it would take us into problematic territory – how big an indiscretion do we choose to overlook in these circumstances?”

        I know it may feel like a rock and a hard place Keith but I noticed no articles about MSC on here starting with his periods of “darkness”,

        I’m just wondering would it be fair to start the next MSC article with something in the title about , oh , say,
        1990 macau , or 1994 Adelaide or maybe 1997 hungary ?

        I mean, how big an indiscretion do we choose to overlook here,

        (shrugs, sip of beer, not angry, just reflective)

        1. Correction
          Jerez 1997

        2. @greg-c

          I noticed no articles about Michael Schumacher on here starting with his periods of “darkness”

          Isn’t it obvious that (fortunately) there hasn’t been a need to write a similar headline about Schumacher? You’re not comparing like with like.

          And isn’t it just as obvious that Schumacher is far more well-known to begin with than Stepney was? I would say his name needs no introduction in this context.

          Furthermore, of course the questionable periods in Schumacher’s career haven’t been overlooked here in the past:


          1. @keithcollantine


            Just wanted to contribute,

            “Next Please” :)

  8. money (@carlos-danger)
    3rd May 2014, 1:01

    “JRM regrets to announce that Nigel Stepney, the company’s racing team tanager and technical director“ Keith i think its manger.

    1. I think it’s manager..

    2. Manger ???

      1. “manger” (French) means “to eat” :)

        1. “eats on behalf of the drivers, as they’re not allowed to…”

  9. What a weird and sad coincidence that a crash takes stepney’s life on this sad anniversary weekend.

  10. Don’t see much point to Subway sponsoring F1 things… The drivers can’t eat a Subway now.

    1. Nice opportunity though to paint up all those horrible noses like subway sandwiches. You could have a different type of sub on every car..

      1. Alex McFarlane
        3rd May 2014, 11:10

        Haha, when I saw the the news that’s the first thing I thought!

    2. The drivers aren’t using Microsoft Dynamics, so by your logic, Microsoft shouldn’t bother sponsoring F1 things either, despite being watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

      1. @raceprouk yeah Subway would be a fantastic fit for F1 sponsorship – especially if the right to install and operate on-site concessions at each GP venue is included in the deal!! 6-inch Italian BMT on Hearty Italian™ = mmmmmmmmm!! ha.

        Zak Brown…sometimes he can come across like a bit of a shyster in his interviews w/ James Allen (based on his relentless positivism about the value of F1 to potential sponsors), but if he brokers a Subway F1 deal that the parties consummate, well…baller!!

        (note: Zak Brown is obviously not a shyster. Just saying he sounds like a used car salesman sometimes when he’s flogging F1!)

  11. “He’s dead”, Bernie said. I thought for a few seconds, “how can I translate it and tell Leo in a more adequate manner, considering he only spoke two words!!” .
    Betise Assumpcao

    What an emotional read. Thank you for that article link, Keith…

  12. The FIA are stupid!

    This penalty points system is awfully managed! 2 for accidentally blocking somebody in qualifying, and 3 for a potentially fatal accident. Great idea to have points, but seriously?

    If you get 2 each time you block in qualifying accidentally, after 6 blocks (approximately 1 every 3 races, which is a lot but it isn’t a very serious mistake) in a year you are banned (on top of the normal penalty). Yet drivers are allowed to cause 4 disastrous collisions.

    And they are considering tweaking it at the end of the season? No, do it now. We are only 4 races in, so they can just adjust the current ones to give some drivers a little less, some maybe 1 extra (cough, Maldonado).

    Your brain cell is required, FIA.

    1. The FIA are NOT stooopid, !!!!!!!

      they are just — they are —-

      well maybe they didn’t——-

      there really not stoo——

      oh heck :(

      argument withdrawn ,

  13. @keithcollantine It is very sad that many places in the media including F1fanatic is reporting Stephany’s death with a headline associating him with the spygate. I agree that what he did was wrong but I believe the news can be reported as “Former Mechanic to Schumacher and Senna Dies in a car accident”. That gives him a little more dignity in death. It is very much acceptable if it is stated inside the article that he was at the center of action in the spygate !!!

    1. @keithcollantine I happened to read your comment for similar comments. I disagree with your explanation.

      John Buttons case is not similar to Stephany’s case.

      Don’t you think a headline like “Former Engineer to Senna and Schumacher killed in Road accident” won’t grab enough attention than spygate especially on Senna’s 20th death anniversary and when Schumacher is fighting for his life ???

      Sensationalism is good but celebrating achievements at death is also reasonable.

      1. I think your reaction is understandable but harsh in light of @keithcollantine‘s elaboration (plus the sub-heading for the story in the main body, and then of course the content Keith links to).

        There’s NOT a value-judgement attached to the SPYGATE reference – Keith has said as much. It’s utilitarian and not abusive in this case, imo.

        I respect that you feel differently however.

      2. How many number one mechanics, chief mechanics and team coordinators do you think Senna and Schumacher raced under? Do you think you would have heard if any of them had died seven years after leaving the sport? Do you even know that others haven’t died?

        1. @w-h and @george I believe people come to this website due to their interest in F1, not for National news. Stephany was a notable name in the success of more than one F1 team. The headline highlighting the low parts of his career was uncalled for. If people are interested in news, they will read it.

          1. @tmax and @funkyf1 I would suggest that if you are going to criticize someone by claiming he is not giving a person enough dignity in death, you should at least dignify the poor man by spelling his name right. It’s Stepney, not Stephany. It’s spelled correctly in the very headline you claim to be so bent out of shape about.

          2. @robbie Thanks for pointing out the error. I regret the typo in the name.

            Does it mean that spelling the name right in a headline is a great achievement that needs special mention ?????

          3. @funkyf1

            I believe people come to this website due to their interest in F1, not for national news.

            That’s true, but many others also arrive here because they have seen the headline and clicked on it, and will know nothing about this website until they arrive here.

            Your other points I addressed here.

          4. @tmax No, but as you point out, spelling it wrong is regrettable.

  14. Regarding the eBay advert I’ve never read so much rubbish. It’s overpriced, over sold and never would you be able to convert that car back to race trim within a realistic budget and without a team of people to run it. All it is good for is a SIM.
    As I remember it the Super Aguri cars were initially the old Spyker cars and nothing to do with BAR or Brawn. If anybody is tempted by this then I suggest you look at something a little more realistically priced such as the BAR 002 on carandclassic.co.uk @ £29k

  15. Genuine mistake @robbie, there’s no claims here just opinions.

Comments are closed.