Millions at stake in F1 ‘mini spy saga’

Force India has accused rivals Caterham of saving millions and then reaping even more millions by stealing their secret technical data.

A British court last week awarded Vijay Mallya’s team EUR 25,000 when Caterham and wind tunnel company Aerolab were found to have based models of the 2010 Team Lotus car on computer files owned by former Aerolab client Force India. The French news agency AFP reports that, as well as referring the case to the FIA, the team is appealing the decision.

Force India deputy team boss Bob Fernley said Caterham had managed to speed ahead of Marussia and HRT in the past two years, earning millions in F1 prize money.

“To get to the level that is needed, formula one is a huge amount of investment and time,” he said.

“Caterham took the Force India aero platform to get to a certain level which took them above HRT and Marussia.

“First of all it saves you millions of pounds and secondly it puts you straight into position. But even three years on they’ve not progressed that.”

F1’s governing body has yet to comment, but famously in 2007 McLaren was fined $100 million for espionage involving Ferrari.

Fernley wonders that if president Jean Todt has no reaction now, “could McLaren claim their $100 million back?”


Force India to push on with new F1 spy saga

Years after F1’s ‘spygate’ sagas, the issue could be set to return to the very top of the governing body’s agenda. Force India claims Caterham and their common former wind tunnel partner Aerolab were this week “found liable” by a British court of using Force India data for the Team Lotus car of early 2010.

Vijay Mallya’s Silverstone based team said the ruling has been “referred for the consideration” of the FIA. But Aerolab has hit back, insisting the judge “entirely rejected” Force India’s charge of “systematic copying”.

“On the contrary, such misuse as I have found to have occurred mainly consisted of opportunistic copying of CAD files by CAD designers in order to take a short cut,” the wind tunnel company quoted judge Justice Arnold as saying.

Nonetheless, Caterham was ordered to pay EUR 25,000 to Force India, but not the 18 million requested by the team.

“We were deeply disappointed with the damages award,” Force India deputy team principal Robert Fernley told the Guardian.

He said Caterham/Aerolab did not make a simple “short cut” in copying the CAD files, but copied “front and rear break duct systems, the front wing, the rear wing, the barge boards, the vortex generators and the diffuser”.

“The judge might say it’s not systematic but in my view it’s pretty extensive,” added Fernley.

Force India is expected to appeal.

And if the FIA intervenes and charges Caterham with theft, “it would cost Caterham tens of millions for the money they received for finishing tenth in the world championship for the past two years”, wrote Guardian correspondent Paul Weaver.

“And that is before any fine.”