Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Day, Daniel Whiddon and Tom Cobleigh write:
In a further twist to the Ferrari-McLaren spy scandal it has been revealed that one of the reasons the FIA has called McLaren to account for its actions is that information has come into its hands relating to alleged similarities between this year's McLaren challenger and last year's Ferrari.
It has been alleged by sources close to the FIA that the bodywork of the Ferrari F2007 and this years McLaren MP4-22 is identical in respect of the fact that the word 'Vodafone' appears to have been flagrantly copied by Lewis Hamilton's team - even though it seems Ferrari have decided not to use this particular design solution in the current season.
"The FIA has analysed photography and film of last year's Ferrari and this year's McLaren and come to the conclusion that there are significant similarities in terms of the characteristics of these cars vis a vis the words written on them, and we have requested a full explanation." said an FIA representative. "We have even noticed that some of the McLaren is red and white, just like a Ferrari."
Ferrari's lawyers have made representations to the effect that their unique decal technology, known to some as 'stickers', has been copied - with specific reference to Vodafone which they allege was stolen from them by McLaren.
"We first noticed that Vodafone had appeared on the McLarens during pre-season testing and at their team launch in Barcelona," said Ferrari spokesman Luca Overthere. "It was when we got to Melbourne and saw that they were planning to race with our Vodafone decal solution on their cars that we began to investigate the situation, particularly as they have some exciting red paint on their cars now and everyone knows McLaren is usually dull."
It is understood that Ferrari has alleged that someone at McLaren made a 'phone call' to an insider at Vodafone as early as 2005 and attempted to lure them into a 'deal'. It has been also mooted that Honda had tried to secure the same Vodafone decal technology from Ferrari, but that this never got beyond an initial meeting.
Over at Brackley, a team member who preferred to remain nameless (there's a first!!!) admitted: "I can confirm that we did meet with Vodafone. But when they heard my plans for the team they told me to get lost because they didn't like me. At no stage were we offered any decals, let alone money."
"They offered the earth," admitted a Vodafone source, "but precious little else."
"A sharp eyed bank teller called us after the wife of a certain McLaren team boss tried to lodge several million pounds in cash at a bank in Woking and was seen to take the money out of an envelope on which the Ferrari logo had been crossed out and someone had hand written 'send to McLaren' instead."
Asked if he was aware about how his team came to procure the Vodafone identity, a McLaren source said; "This is the first I have heard of it. The team cannot be blamed for the actions of one or two individuals, and it is very clear that the Vodafone decals in use by us this season are quite a different shape to the ones used by Ferrari last year. Everyone knows that our application of decals to the car is different from Ferrari - you can read the logos on a Ferrari."
The McSource continued; "I find this kind of sniping extremely frustrating. But at McLaren we remain completely focused, professional and patronising at all times. I am totally unemotional about these allegations - I distance myself fully from any emotion and in a way akin to that of a non-human being." He then burst into tears.
Additional reporting by Beau Nydle.