Renault's suspension of engineer starts spying fightback

Renault have taken the first step in their defence against charges of using intellectual property belonging to the McLaren team by confirming the suspension of one of their engineers, following an order on Thursday from the FIA, the sport's world governing body, to appear before the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco on 6 December, to answer a charge in relation to a breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code.

The same charge against McLaren, in relation to Ferrari data, saw them disqualified from the World Championship for Constructors and fined $100m (£47.4m) in September.

A Renault statement said: "On the 6th September 2007 it came to our attention that an engineer (Mr Phil Mackereth) who joined the team from McLaren in Sept 2006 had brought with him some information that was considered to be proprietary to McLaren. This information was contained on old style floppy discs and included copies of some McLaren engineering drawings and some technical spreadsheets.

"This information was loaded at the request of Mr Mackereth on to his personal directory on the Renault F1 Team file system. This was done without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team."

Renault further claims to have cleansed their computer systems after initiating a formal investigation, to have returned the disks to McLaren, and to have kept them and the FIA informed of all relevant findings. The statement continued: "Our formal investigation showed that early in his employment with Renault Mr Mackereth made some of our engineers aware of parts of this information in the form of a few reduced scale engineering drawings. These drawings covered four basic systems as used by McLaren and were: the internal layout of the fuel tank, the basic layout of the gear clusters, a tuned mass damper and a suspension damper.

"Subsequent witness statements from the engineers involved have categorically stated that having been briefly shown these drawings, none of this information was used to influence design decisions relating to the Renault car."