Renault will come out of the latest spying investigation unscathed, according to team principal Flavio Briatore, who says he is confident of his team’s case.
He also revealed that Phil Mackereth, the engineer at the centre of the scandal, is due to be dismissed and questioned the timing of McLaren’s complaint to the FIA.
Briatore told The Times newspaper that the team will defend itself by claiming that there was no flow of information from McLaren to Renault, as had happened between Ferrari and McLaren.
He also pointed out that the technical information in dispute was in a different league from the 780-page dossier of Ferrari technical information that passed between Mike Coughlan and Nigel Stepney.
Crucially, he said that it was impossible to stop information of this kind being transferred when engineers move between teams – an argument that did McLaren no good whatsoever, when it claimed it was being penalised unfairly for behaviour that is rife in the sport.
How F1’s governing body treats this argument is likely to be at the centre of the case. It is arguable that McLaren made the complaint against Renault at least partly in a bid to prove that the rules were not being applied consistently to all teams.
Briatore told The Times: “When we found out in September, we talked with this guy, we started an investigation and immediately suspended the guy and then immediately we informed McLaren and the FIA.
“We gave to Mr Mosley all the correspondence and the evidence and a statement from our engineers making clear we never used any McLaren system in our car.
“The information was in the computer, it was in the disks that this guy brought. It was very simple. It was a drawing of a few systems, it was part of a drawing of the gearbox and was part of a drawing of a mass-damper.
“I am confident the information was not used and not only me. We have witness statements from every engineer that was involved and, categorically, everybody says that there was no influence of any of these things on the design of our car.”
He also claimed that McLaren did not take advantage of Renault’s offer to allow independent experts to examine its computer systems to check the offending data had been erased, saying that representatives from security firm Kroll made a short visit to collect the disks.
“We were happy to let them inspect our computer, we wanted to give McLaren the opportunity to check that there was no influence on the design of our car, but they never took up the offer.”
However, the paper points out that this conflicts with other accounts which state that Kroll did check the Renault computers more thoroughly.