The “Spygate Mechanic dies”? Really BBC? I’ll be honest, I’ve made mistakes in my life and so have Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds (Crashgate) and Mike Coughlan, along with Stepney, who was involved in the McLaren/Ferrari Spygate affair of 2007. For that matter, if memory serves correctly, so were Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa or at least they knew the information they were given came from Ferrari according to reports at the time.

I’m not holding that over their heads as Pat and Mike served their ban from Formula 1 and Pedro as well as Fernando were absolved immediately by the FIA’s Max Mosley for testimony they gave in the inquiry. Both Pat and Mike came back into F1 with support from the press due to their penalties having been served and Symonds is now at Williams F1 where Coughlan recently left.

Nigel Stepney has contributed a lot to the sport of F1 and his untimely death is a tragic reminder of the fragile life that we all cling to. He was certainly involved in the Spygate drama and sentenced in Italy to do time for his involvement but never served that time. Stepney played a key role in the scandal and never worked in F1 again having moved to sports car racing. Then there was the sabotage of Raikkonen’s car in 2007 with the white powder incident. Clearly all was not well between he and Ferrari but we weren’t there to know the politics that would drive him to malfeasance.

I tend to think that Pat and Mike have served their time and deserve a second chance. While I would have said the same of Stepney had he chosen to try to enter F1 again, we were never given the opportunity to show grace and forgiveness for his actions and perhaps the indictment by Italian authorities was a hill too steep to climb.

However, I would like to think that both Symonds and Coughlan deserve more than to be always referred to as “Williams F1’s technical director and former Spygate accomplice”. The same goes for Mike Coughlan and I would hope that in death, one could have some modicum of grace as to not tell the world that THE Spygate Mechanic died. It’s crass and betrays a majority of what Nigel had accomplished in favor of slathering his death with scandal and eternal implication. I get it, he was the epicenter of the scandal but he’s also tragically been killed. I think the two are markedly different and deserve different approaches.

Max Mosley is the Former FIA president to me, not the former president and German-themed Spanking party guy. Pat Symonds is a sharp technical director for Williams and Mike Coughlan is an intelligent technical boffin who can’t seem to hold a job for long but I am not holding scandals over these gentlemen’s heads as the entirety of their character and contributions to the sport.

I would like to think we could afford Nigel the same courtesy in this tragic circumstance. He may have deserved a 20-month sentence from an Italian court for his involvement in Spygate but he also deserves some shred of decency from those of us who are quick to throw stones from the safety of the porch of our glass house.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • F1_Knight

    Well said NC. This is truly a tragic loss.

  • Schmorbraten

    Symonds and Briatore were involved in the Renault race fixing scandal in Singapore 2008, not in the story of Mclaren gaining some Ferrari info via Stepney and Coughlan. Renault also at the time had some Mclaren info there weren’t supposed to have, but nothing came of that, and Symonds and Briatore didn’t leave F1 because of the Mclaren “spying” scandal.

    • UAN

      It’d be interesting to know why Renault wasn’t punished after they were found guilty of breaching the International Sporting Code for having McLaren technical data.

      I think Todd’s overall point still stands, that there are some players in F1 (and in general) who have done sleazy thing, more so then Stepney, and who won’t be remembered for that sleazy thing. Though, unfortunately for Stepney, the spy scandal is the primary reason the general public knows about him.

    • I didn’t do a very good job of parsing the events so thanks for calling me out on that. Crashgate was the Briatore and Symonds incident but they were also found to have data from McLaren on discs and I was lumping all of those mistakes together along with Mike and Max as far as scandals that shook F1 and showed some poor decision making or mistakes. Thanks for pointing out that this was not made that clear in my post. I’ll edit it a bit to make more sense.

    • If you wanted to implicate Brawn in the Stepney/Coughlan Honda connection, there were several alleging that as well. :)

  • Nicely said Todd, nicely said.