The McLaren Formula One team has suspended one of its top engineers following an investigation into allegations that the engineer had a stash of high-level technical information from rival F1 team Ferrari.
McLaren has declined to name the employee at the centre of the allegations but Ferrari has accused its former technical manager Nigel Stepney of passing on confidential documents.
A Ferrari spokesperson told Reuters:
"Ferrari confirm that we have brought an action against Nigel Stepney and a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes technical engineer in a court in Modena [Italy] regarding the theft of technical information".
Referring to the furore surrounding one of its senior staff, McLaren confirmed in a statement yesterday that the unnamed "individual had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April."
In further developments, several reports had suggested that a search warrant for a house in Surrey had been issued through the British courts and that a criminal investigation was underway.
However, Surrey Police told The Register that it had "no knowledge or involvement in any activities" relating to the allegations made by Ferrari.
It said that such an investigation would be considered a "civil rather than criminal matter."
McLaren today said that it had completed its own internal investigation into the allegations and claimed that "no Ferrari intellectual property has been passed to any other members of the team or incorporated into its cars."
The Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA) also confirmed that it has kicked off its own investigation.
"The remit of this investigation will focus solely on the requirements of the international sporting code and the Formula One regulations."
McLaren has been having a hugely successful F1 season; it is currently leading the constructors' world championship ahead of arch-rival Ferrari.
Meanwhile, British wonder kid Lewis Hamilton is sitting pretty in the top spot for the driver's championship, 14 points clear of his nearest rival, team-mate Fernando Alonso.
In April this year, two former Ferrari engineers accused of stealing trade secrets were subsequently convicted of industrial espionage. ®