The Renault F1 team has admitted that it possessed confidential information belonging to McLaren, and that the data made it onto its computer systems – but has denied that it was misused in any way.
It says that McLaren has been invited to send independent experts to inspect its car designs and computers so its competitor can be reassured that confidential technical drawings removed by a former employer have not been exploited.
In a statement released today the team stressed that every effort had been made to remove all traces of the information from its systems.
It also explained how engineer Phil Mackereth, the former McLaren engineer at the centre of the row, was suspended from the team on September 6.
The team has been summoned to explain its actions at a meeting of the World Motorsport Council to be held on December 6.
Earlier this year McLaren was fined nearly £50 million and docked all its constructors’ points after emails between its drivers were held to have proved that improperly-obtained information about the current Ferrari car was shared around the garage.
The Renault statement says: “On September 6 2007 it came to our attention that an engineer (Mr Phil Mackereth) who joined the team from McLaren in September 2006 had brought with him some information that was considered to be proprietary to McLaren.
“This information was contained on old-style floppy discs and included copies of some McLaren engineering drawings and some technical spreadsheets. This information was loaded at the request of Mr Mackereth onto his personal directory on the Renault F1 Team file system.
“This was done without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team.”
It says that, as soon as the team’s technical management became aware of what had happened, the information was completely cleansed from the team’s computer systems and a formal investigation was started.
It also says that Renault promptly informed McLaren and the FIA of what had happened, as well as continuing to keep them informed of later developments.
Mr Mackereth was immediately suspended and the original floppy discs were impounded and sent to the company solicitors awaiting return to McLaren.
The statement continues: “Our formal investigation showed that early in his employment with Renault Mr Mackereth made some of our engineers aware of parts of this information in the form of a few reduced scale engineering drawings.
“These drawings covered four basic systems as used by McLaren and were: the internal layout of the fuel tank, the basic layout of the gear clusters, a tuned mass damper and a suspension damper.
“Subsequent witness statements from the engineers involved have categorically stated that having been briefly shown these drawings, none of this information was used to influence design decisions relating to the Renault car.
“In the particular case of the tuned mass damper, these had already been deemed illegal by the FIA and therefore the drawing was of no value.
“The suspension damper drawing hinted that the McLaren design might be similarly considered illegal and a subsequent clarification from the FIA confirmed this based upon our crude interpretation of the concept.”
It says the team has invited independent experts from McLaren to assess Renault’s computer systems and inspect its cars and design records “to demonstrate that this unfortunate incident has not in anyway influenced the design of the cars.”
It finishes by saying: “ING Renault F1 Team have acted with complete transparency towards McLaren and the FIA, being proactive in solving this matter and we are fully confident in the judgment of the World Council.”
McLaren has not yet released any official statement on the case.