Ferrari sack senior staffer for alleged sabotage


Maranello (Italy) : Ferrari has dismissed performance development chief Nigel Stepney after accusing him of attempted sabotage.

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Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tuesday that the Briton had been dismissed after an internal investigation.

Ferrari had earlier started court proceedings against Stepney after accusing the former technical manager of the team of being involved in an incident ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix during which a mysterious powder was found on the gas tanks of their two cars.

The powder was reportedly sent for examination to the police, while the parts were removed and replaced. Police also searched Stepney's house and his workplace.

Italian media reported that police found incriminating evidence during these searches.

Stepney, who is currently on holiday in the Philippines, told English media when the accusations first surfaced that they were part of a smear campaign against him.

His lawyer Sonia Bartolini said Stepney is innocent and she has proof of this.

Stepney is expected back in Italy Thursday and will then immediately work with judicial officials to clear his name. He will then sue Ferrari, she said.

The 48-year-old has been working for Ferrari since 1993. He was technical manager till 2001 and was hoping to take over from technical director Ross Brawn when Brawn went on a sabbatical at the end of last year.

He was disappointed when he did not get the position and said that he would leave the team at the end of the season.

After Saturday's one-two finish in the French Grand Prix, Ferrari is 25 points behind McLaren-Mercedes in the constructors' championships.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton (64) and defending champion Fernando Alonso (50) lead the drivers' standings ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa (47) and Kimi Raikkonen (42).