Nigel Stepney 1958 – 2014

Some obituaries are easy to write, others are more difficult. Nigel Stepney’s story is likely to end up being contentious because he was man of many talents and much energy but he also had some major flaws. He ended up being famous for all the wrong reasons and while he deserved some of the criticism, he felt that the true story had not been told.

Nigel was killed in a road accident on the M20 motorway near Ashford in Kent in the early hours of this morning. He was 55. According to police reports, he parked his van on the hard shoulder of the motorway and was hit by a lorry when he ventured into the roadway. It is not clear why this happened.

Stepney grew up in the town of Southam, near Coventry and played football for the Warwickshire county team before becoming an apprentice mechanic with the Coventry-based Broadspeed Racing team when he was still in his teens. Broadspeed, run by Ralph Broad, prepared some of the most successful touring cars of the era, notably Ford Capris and Jaguars for the European Touring Car Championship. The team ran into financial trouble in the late 1970s and so Stepney looked for another job in racing and at the age of 21 joined the Shadow F1 in Northampton as a mechanic. He developed a close working relationship with rising star Elio de Angelis and followed the Italian to Team Lotus in 1980. Stepney became chief mechanic on de Angelis’s car and the two worked together until Elio moved to Brabham in 1986. He was killed later that year in a testing accident at Paul Ricard. Stepney had not followed de Angelis to Brabham and instead worked with Ayrton Senna for the next two years. After Senna moved to McLaren in 1988 Stepney stayed on at Lotus for the season and then moved to Benetton where he worked with Nelson Piquet. Three years later Piquet suggested that they work together to create a Formula 3000 team called Piquet Racing, running a young Monaco driver called Olivier Beretta. The team was not a success but at the end of the 1991 season Stepney was offered a job by John Barnard, with whom he had worked at Benetton, and Nigel went to Italy to try to put some structure into the Ferrari racing team. He remained a key player after Barnard was replaced by Ross Brawn and remained team coordinator until 2001, playing a vital role in ensuring that Ferrari’s reliability was as good as its rivals. At the start of 2001 he was promoted to the position of Racing Manager, and one of the clan of non-Italians who made Ferrari the great team it was with Michael Schumacher.

He was very highly paid in this role and in this period he began to develop bigger ambitions that were perhaps rather too elevated. He felt that he would have been a good successor to Brawn and was unhappy when he was not even considered for the post when Brawn left the team at the end of 2006. Relationships soured rapidly and Stepney later said that one of the reasons that he gave some information to McLaren was because he did not like the ethos of the racing team after Brawn had departed. At the same time it was clear that Nigel was trying to get himself a much bigger job elsewhere and offered his services – and those of designer Mike Coughlan – to other teams. The reality was that he also gave Coughlan a huge amount of Ferrari information, which the latter kept at his home. It is arguable whether McLaren knew the extent of the information that Coughlan had.

The relationship between Stepney and Ferrari got uglier that season. Nigel believed he was being set up and claimed that there were car chases, tracking devices and private detectives involved. After Monaco there was a very bizarre incident in which Stepney was accused of having tried to sabotage the Ferrari team in Monaco. Nigel denied the claims, pointing out that the story made no sense at all. In July 2007 he was fired as the spy scandal developed.
Stepney went on to work in GT racing with JRM and the cars he was running won the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship,
“From the moment Nigel joined JRM in 2010, he was a vitally important member of the team and brought a level of engineering experience to us that was unrivalled,” James Rumsey said in a statement. “A man that engineered Ayrton Senna at Lotus and helped to guide Michael Schumacher to five Formula One world championships with Ferrari was the perfect candidate to establish JRM as a serious team in circuit-based motorsport and the role that he played in achieving that standard will never be underestimated or forgotten. Nigel was an intense and fierce competitor and always strived for excellence in our racing. We certainly could not have achieved our level of success without his leadership and experience. Away from the track, he was a focused, driven and passionate member of the JRM Group, and a loving father to his family. The rest of the engineering and race team here at JRM learned an unimaginable amount from Nigel in the four short years he was with us and his death this morning has shocked everyone to the core. Today, the motorsport world has lost one of its greatest characters and competitors. He will be sorely missed and we send our sincere condolences to his family and the many friends he leaves behind.”

Nigel is survived by his partner Ash and daughter Sabine. He also leaves Laura, Cassie and Josh, three older children from a previous marriage.

For many years Nigel talked about publishing a book telling his side of the 2007 scandal but that never happened. It is a shame in many ways as a lot of what was going on that year was not as it seemed.

88 thoughts on “Nigel Stepney 1958 – 2014

  1. Wasn’t he making noises again recently about getting that book of his published? And now it never will be…

    R.I.P.

  2. If the book was written, maybe it can now be published as there is no more career to protect. A sad end to a good but flawed career.

  3. Thoughts to his family.

    Id be interested to know more about what was really going on with that spy scandal. Maybe a GP+ or blog article at some point?

  4. Joe,
    This is a very sad tale and I am sure if you took what you had written here as a synopsis for a book, you would get a deal! It would be even better if his family allowed you access to whatever drafts he wrote for his own book. As ever Joe this is a piece of writing that really knocked it out of the park. It is something you excel at…… it is time that the full story of Spygate was told and we know, as you have said on the blog before, you have your own view of that part of F1 history to tell one day. Maybe this book is the time and place?

  5. Here’s a twisted one: I have been assumed to be a failed embittered type by someone who seeks to explain their position as undermined by subterfuge when their position is just plain not going to be what they wish it might be.* That hurt. Literally. They also assume I can number the skeleton closets one by one, being the obviously evil dastardly embittered warped twisted scheming malevolence they would portray me to be, for their own imaginary advantage, and probably to allay their suspicion of themselves being patsy for some real blame diversion. Oddly, that presumption may be saving a few things I rather care about. Problem is the buggers could have nearly killed me. Upshot is they’ve not solved any problem and will have to look in a mirror. I’m not certain how deliberate any of this was, but I can feel the black hole of human failure to understand from where I sit even now,

    What I am saying here is when this news broke, I thought immediately of a number of car accidents that have changed corporate history**, all very hard to explain. I was almost going to say “game on” . . and every bit of me is suspicious about this one. The problem is that I have just had a very real lesson in just how wrong someone can get things, if they are of the conspiratorial mood and given to foul play. Or plain insecure. Fear is so appallingly destructive, it undermines all anything we can usually appreciate about motive.

    So maybe game on for conspiracy theorists. But consider before you do, whether Stepney, if he were a target, is the right target. There’s a whole problem with being falsely accused of anything: you start acting all wrong, and I think it’s a hard one to bluff otherwise, very hard indeed. Someone who is sensitive will start reacting protectively but ineptly. Which seems to be pure fresh blooded shark bait.

    And naturally sensitive highly intelligent misunderstood characters do have chips on their shoulder. That’s the presumption anyhow. It is how one can look, anyhow, it is how one ends up looking when eventually you have a actual reason to have a chip on your shoulder for real. You sure do act that way if threatened. People who say they’ve something to say often get threatened. In a parlour games way it’s par for the course in publishing anything about anyone living.

    And to further clarify mud by degrees, a technical genius might well have a true or truer story that can be told without anyone being incriminated, even if they could be incriminated. Frustrated minds of Stepney’s calibre explore all manner of aspects why what they may see is best is not happening. Often far more clearly without the politics in their thoughts.

    Nope, I’ve not ever told anyone I’m publishing anything they would not want to have printed.*** But after I was misguidedly singled out, one person for sure has a mistake to worry about. I was trying to point the dunderhead in the right direction. That obviously had to be some ploy . . . anyhow obviously if someone is threatening and they think you can spill some beans, how easy might it be to try to use that? I’m telling you right now, that’s a binary option. You can’t play that card, but dammit you want to, you will consider it silently in anger until the idea can be smelled oozing from your pores, all of it as rubbish as the accusation.

    So, Nigel Stepney, genius, accidentally political figure, man, and may he be remembered as the man he was how who loves him want that to be, but I hope he will not have to be remembered as a fall guy. I most certainly would have read or would read any book he wrote, and not many can potentially write so much of interest from a first person account. So you blow your one book on settling scores and blackmail and all such nastiness? Is that a intelligent plan for a legacy? Are you engineer or Machiavelli’s student? Do you want to look stupid and play your life’s work for peanuts? Or did someone divert unwanted attention your way? In more subtle ways than a truck on a hard shoulder, I mean. If I may take leave of a excuse for my blunt conjecture, I simply hope that if there is any call for investigation it be done properly, thoroughly, so his family can be rested in their minds.

    * I may be many things, but I have been a failure in different walks of life often enough by making the wrong go of my work, and thereby loosing pretty much all, just often enough I don’t have the usual set of reactions to loosing out. Not saying I’m a good looser, far from it. Just I know how toxic are the reactions and developed a different set of reflexes. Be assured all normal emotions up and down the scale still apply. You just do have a chance to channel them differently and go put your reactionary energy elsewhere. It gets easier as it gets harder, or something like that . . .

    ** David Cutler’s co chief when in charge of what some suspect in any event legally became the model parent of all that is the good stiff in Windows NT. I am remiss others, don’t have random access to that block of memory just now.

    *** I did make a extremely personal promise, long before I realised why I was asked, but even as I knew it was a oath, to write the story of “us” before I could start to comprehend what that meant, or why I was being asked, or why anything, actually, but I haven’t started that at all, because who asked has something to say.

    And regards my third post script, I hope there is something good that Nigel Stepney has to say that we may yet see in print, which will lift him clear of all the shadow cast over him. I may have been horrible and ugly in this comment, but there’s no other way to begin to describe what can twist up if a man is touched by unfair guilt. The effect such a thing has on those close is traumatic. If that is the case, the most genuine and sincere wish I can hold out for his loved ones, is that all that murk will dispel. Without doubt everyone would have it that way. I merely wanted to try to say something a bit beyond well wishing and opinion, from all too direct knowledge, and offer something other than sympathy: the personal knowledge that there is no permanent shadow under which a good man can live or die.

    1. “the personal knowledge that there is no permanent shadow under which a good man can live or die.”

      Don’t be so sure about that. History is written by the victor. This has been the case since time immemorial.

      Aside from that final snippet, your post however is the most … Wise? Accurate? Apt? Enlightened? … post I have read in a long time.

      Let me leave you with this JoJ,

      “Do not be deceived, Bad company ruins good morals.” – Corinthians

      1. Hi Scuderia! Your Corinthians quote could sadly be taken as a underlying reason why I was unhappily distracted for so long. I really wish I could talk about that, the sheer rot that sets in, how it’s impossible to do anything at first because you’d blind, and getting dragged in, and become lost, and just how unlikely it is anyone who should be sorting out a problem actually will try to do so with a clear head. I’m just at that stage of maybe having met a clear head who might be able. But to add to the complication, that person is clearly highly biased towards me, I think personally. I so wish I could write any of this for general consumption. I’m still locked in a debate with myself how much was conveyed between myself and another in a very unusual meeting. Long stares were exchanged. I think a article of trust was practically passed that I may be able to verify. The problem raised by your Corinthians quote is at the heart not only of the trouble, but failed attempts to resolve it. I have suffered even because of who is my concern have condemned themselves but yet against hope placing faith in me. And hope is there to be discarded by whose heart they feel tarnished by futility. And that is why I became dangerous to others, because none then could be by artifice the saviour by which idea they justify themselves.

        “And be not conformed to this world, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”, Romans 12.2

        “For peace I had great bitterness, but thou hast in love to my soul delivered me from the pit of corruption”, Isaiah, 38.17

        My final sentence was meant personally, for those to whom the man matters, because it is only in their hearts I think that this is important. You are right, sadly, to the victor, unto Caesar, and we can do little about any of it. But we can allow to those who care a appreciation of the person without the cloud, and that is something that’s worth extending.

        For myself I am yet to be tested. I know now why what was good in my life was for a reason shrouded by so much that unmeaning I hideously exposed. The gaoler cannot know the spirit of freedom he keeps, for he looks on it with pity and not joy. Even the greatest love needs know its constraints, though they may not be spoken. Know first the freedom you have, lest you become a destroyer of walls only to build them again.

        All best from me ~ j

        1. “But to add to the complication, that person is clearly highly biased towards me, I think personally. I so wish I could write any of this for general consumption. I’m still locked in a debate with myself how much was conveyed between myself and another in a very unusual meeting. Long stares were exchanged. I think a article of trust was practically passed that I may be able to verify. The problem raised by your Corinthians quote is at the heart not only of the trouble, but failed attempts to resolve it.”

          It is often best to disconnect the innate receptors of emotional sensitivity and analysis once situations develop in such ways.Try to artificially lower the EQ. This will force you to absorb the actions, separate the wheat from the chaff and subsequently play the ball. Not the man.

          Chin up.

          SM

          1. Cheers for that, SM!

            I can’t see a quote in your quotation marks so assume you illustrate. Influences of Milan Kundera? If only in sight we knew, and turned by the reflection of myself in your eyes I saw how you see me staring at the beauty lost for not seeing, I only woke to look, but need to wake again, and do not want to.

    2. Good God John (other John), take some lessons in how to use commas, or maybe just how to write intelligible English! Your lengthy screeds are terribly difficult to parse and understand. I usually give up after a paragraph or two, so any point you’re trying to make gets completely lost.

      (Sorry Joe, but John (other John) needs to know!)

      1. Sorry, will try to blame typing on tablet, will instead proof read more. I know that my half formed “style” breaks down too easily. Going to put the above into a bit of intensive care, lest it breaks out contagion. Some people clearly do have far less a problem with the way I scribble, but I don’t intend to be divisive, so will pay closer attention. The above may have simply gone astray in the small hours, because of a emotional tension in trying to convey a insight into a bit of human failing that’s revolting to even think about. Nonetheless, don’t let me get away with it if I’m careening off the linguistic rails. I do take it to heart a good way if you make a call. Cheers ~ j

        1. As far as I’m concerned, don’t change JoJ. I consumed your OP fine. Not all if us can fit into nicely packaged boxes with pretty little labels. Let the beige army say what they like.

          “Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.” – Chauncey Depew

          “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” – John F. Kennedy

        2. Thank you, John. I’ve been trying to read your contributions over the months, and my frustration at my inability to extract your meaning broke out in an ad hominem attack (as some have read my comment). I too will attempt greater patience in reading your material.

          1. Hi BenK,

            so sorry it took me so long to reply. I rest too much on times I really spent the time to think through my scribbling. I never took anything askance in your comment, to put that to rest finally. I don’t deserve the leeway I do get from past efforts, which definitely were labors of love, but I am simply trying to find a new balance and so am really grateful you’ll give me the chance. Not false humility from me, I really got knocked for six in life, and I am not sure what my voice is any more. But I’m sincerely touched by your patience. All my best ~ john

      2. Ben K and GP.

        Try spending time reading and absorbing instead of rejecting things that are not understood immediately.

        Or at least move on. The ad hom isn’t required.

        1. So cogent and concise prose would lack depth and garrulousness is a sure sign of wisdom?

          1. I don’t understand you, therefore either you change your style of writing to better fit my capacity or I am obliged to mock you personally.

            Silly isn’t it…

              1. “We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” – Frank Clark

                I find myself not agreeing with you HotAir, but don’t despair, you get to grow just that little bit more. You can thank me later.

                😉

          2. Your sentence lacked not depth nor garrulousness, but grammar.

            Perhaps a correct use of grammar, rather than a simple over-dose of florid language would communicate your point more accurately than this ‘hot air’.

        1. Thirded. Welcome back J(oJ).

          BenK, I agree that some of J(oJ)’s whimsies need two or three reads to get them. Persevere… or just skip over him. Either is acceptable.

          1. Thanks guys! I’m sorry I honestly am never actually bang on form, even in practised whiles. I’ve always shot too much from the hip, and it could be said I was absent paying for both my nature to open my gob and my failing to deliver what I mean in the best way. But it’s downright fine to be back and so welcomed. There’s really almost no place on the internet you can wander away from and return and find the same animus, same spirit, same voices. Something works very very well here, and certainly didn’t cop out without me. That, actually, has been the best part. I wasn’t off elsewhere in protest or anything, I simply didn’t have any connection in my other life that would have let me drop in with anything useful to say.

            My actual very last comment last year was scribbled as tremendous hope fought with frightening reality, and I think I knew even as I wrote it, I was off on a private journey for certain. Sadly I have a touch of Cassandra in my life, more than a touch, I’m overdue some flip side to unhappy predictions, and out of the irrepressible hope that was being sustained, I let myself and who I care for down by not heeding every signal, and I can’t say I paid a price when I’m not alone in this. I will, if all blows over in the right way, let that story be known. I’m on a promise, regardless. Maybe even if it does not blow over in the right way. . . Ouch, I’m stuck with terrible platitudes instead of what would make sense but be incomplete and so misleading despite true. But the Cassandra complex is a real thing. I think there’s even evidence in my comments here, because I have I think from a very early age, a sense for how ill winds can blow. Or just have a ear or sense for sadness, and sadness arises from the way people are when they’re not telling things as they should be. I don’t know why this very human, to me elementary ability to understand, seems to be demoted to a distant place at the table of journalism. I have within myself, however, privately made too many mistakes that are abrogates of my intuition, forced rationality over innate logic. For which nothing but a complete conversion would begin to suffice if you only knew the smallest part of a train of tragedy I could have been other than a passenger in. The problem is that I found myself for a very long time stuck in a situation where cold unhappy logic was prevailing and causing contrariness I could understand, but not accept. The artificial intelligence people have a word, “contrafactual” or “counterfactual” and holding apposite ideas in your head or logic system causes rifts of disruption. Almost all bad propaganda is based on contrafactuals. Think through twentieth century history, or even advertising, to find many. They disrupt and distort within our own minds. We have seen them in polemic, in dystopian literature, above places of torture, and they have irradiated common speech and become a tenet of marketing at a lesser mark to countervail observation’s own validity, instead of applying deeper within to what should flow out positively. Marketing is using crude approximations of powerful technique and failing us in this sport also. Ironically, through private despair I cannot broach here, despair that will shake me forever and not leave even if there is a cure, found out a greater appreciation for why I have dabbled in the career I have led than I could clearly appreciate before. It was my late business partner who I loved for his insistence n asking the one question over and over “is it any good?” and for denying me the chance many times to pursue negative campaigns (against which I railed, still smart over what was on the table begging to be taken) but I am realising now how lucky I was to be so guided, because it kept alive in me a compass point by which to understand so much more.

            I broke I think every tenet of my inner sense of what is right, but in ways that are very subtle. I am not ready to accept forgiveness for what cannot be undone. In realising this, in realising I had erred but at a fundamental personal way underlying my life, I set myself up for being the target of outpouring guilt from others of the utmost perversion. I continue to be challenged in a extremely deep way. Personally, it is the question of worthiness of love, when that which is called upon is not expressed fully, even when it could not be known fully, but instead retarded, and in this crucible of self valuation and ability to respect again what matters, I am not alone. Scuderia citing Corinthians, above, was not far wrong. But it tells not of what challenges we have to face without foreknowledge, without having them explained to us, and to my mind risks becoming a excuse rather than a explanation. I will likely never get around to this if I am able to do in my life what I hope is possible, but I think a great deal of psychology could be rewritten from the perspective of understanding fear of all kinds, because I found that fear has a way of lurking dormant almost at a cellular level in who have experienced it, and I think much of what I just scribbled talks of kinds of fears within human or spiritual natures that may only be apparent on post failure examination, but which ought to be understood better ex ante. Because, taking quite a leap, I think we all have prescience, all have within us instinctual senses that are able to both warn and shape us the better. Too much of life is seemingly to me about mopping up spills, not of seeing the way in which possibility will become us, Or maybe it will be simply a book about how two people feared to love, daunted by itself, and outward fears. For certainly this was all triggered by one person’s terrifying fears which permeate a world surrounding who is most precious to me. I have not seen it all. My eyes have only just been opened.

            In case I have taken another step towards a religious bent, I reaffirm my faith is always in the next man, godliness is a matter of embodiment in the person and not in observances, and so it is especially good to be welcomed back to a forum which has not lost its compass. And sometimes it just is plain good to hear it being told like it is, without feral of corruption of the debate.

            Just very happy to be back and to hear you all, and everyone else, I do pay attention to the whole discussion, just try to add only where I am fairly sure I can offer something different. Maybe it’s a knowing choice to be a bit gonzo, a bit left field that can garble what I write. To take the edge off what I know can be a bit preachy, a bit too personal, or just arcane bordering on hostilities to easy reading. I just do feel it’s always worth giving it whatever I got. I’m going to pay a whole lot of attention to how to do so more intelligibly in the next weeks, though. Thanks again for your warm greetings! All best from me ~ j

            P.S. “normal service”, if not better in any way I can, is to return now from me. I’m sorry to have taken a pulpit for a moment to indulge a kind of explanation. Only mean to relate the possibility – possibility – that I may have been away for a reason, and forgive me pleas I think it was much the better I didn’t try to drop in with any comment whilst all this was brewing or stewing away in my unfortunately very dense and slow to learn mind. Definitely time to get stuck into actual racing again!

            1. “Scuderia citing Corinthians, above, was not far wrong. But it tells not of what challenges we have to face without foreknowledge, without having them explained to us, and to my mind risks becoming a excuse rather than a explanation.”

              A mere warning, an encouragement of understanding the weakness within.

            2. John ( OJ ), I don’t have the back story with you that others do here. However, whatever your problems have been in the past, and may still be, I would just say that you seem a decent guy to me, from what I read here. Also, don’t worry about any critics here, just be true to yourself. There are all sorts here, and I would willingly bet that some should not throw stones from their own glasshouses! You keep doing what you want here, under Joe’s rules, you’re not harming anyone, and have a very thoughtful view of things. Cheers matey!

  6. Wow…terrible as any premature loss…I signed up on the waiting list for “Red Mist”. I do wish it will be published, as “A Confederacy of Dunces” was.

    My condolences to his survivors.

        1. Not available, “out of print”. (or never in?)
          Reading elsewhere, the first publisher was persuaded not to publish and the second should have seen books in store for Christmas 2012. But
          The closest link I can find was written in 2007 and it’s concerning Nigel’s letter to the FIA.

          1. Amazon seems to list from the first ISBN filing. You could play a few games with that for search results I’m sure, but the British Library has “outsourced” all that to Nielsen who introduced fees, in the way of all government savings a profit centre has been handed to beneficiary for maintaining a database that ought not to have challenged anyone forty years ago to maintain. Thinking back not long, Network Solutions got the dot com registry and made a profitable mess out of that, so it’s a Anglo Saxon habit for sure.

            I’d love to be surprised by a book from Stepney that writes as clearly as he can be effective as a engineer. The title “Red Mist” could equally be a cool headed insight as a humdinger pot boiler. Or a reminiscences of his Ferrari days when his contribution was maybe most intense. I like the title, anyhow. So good and obvious I’d want to steal it for something else.

            Useless to conjure up thoughts like this, but if he had penned one without falling the easy pitfalls into which his story could easily be caught. Instead deliver a work clean and balanced and above all about how his ability enables him to see the sport. That would be the most fitting remark.

            Maybe if there’s drafts, editors might think about that, instead of the inevitable possibility of controversy, or worse than that, controversy promoted but not in the actual nature of a text. Things can be awfully edited to mess with a script’s intent. It may be that he was unsure of his intent, and that would lead to some interesting production meetings,

            Even if there’s a kiss-and-tell to be told, maybe that could be split away, serialised instead, leaving a private bio to enjoy without unnecessary shadows. A later edition can always include a forward or afterword written to better frame any reaction to revelations. Just a off the cuff thought: get Adam Parr to write that chapter. But I’m a bit silly with that thought, as it’s all conjecture anyhow.

            Publishers do mess with deadline, of course. Benign reasons exist for delay like simply having the budget to promote a title. I presume Stepney was able to negotiate clauses ensuring promotion. Or it could be his most recent career demanded new material. Authors often take a new perspective with a change of a little time. That’s the hardest thing, though, with a personal book, even mobster or support written. Rewrites are plenty hard, could easily explain a year or even two year’s delay. Lots of contracts have to be shuffled sometimes even for a seemingly minor revision.

            Bottom line, books take huge effort. If only it was as simple as writing them, also. Just consider how much of a meal I can make out of a comment or two, here. Multiply by a couple hundred pages . . involve half a dozen people in different professions, add in a lawyer or several. One hopes the publisher will have paid for fact checkers, researchers, to bolster the finished product. All reasons why you get a stop start rush and brake test play with any new book. If Stepney kept a diary, could that be published now in any form? Will a publisher have access given by his family Stepney might have not provided but which his family may provide to better include a feeling of who led a very interesting life? Will there be argument as to copyright in estate? That happens frequently to almost inevitably as a consideration. Especially if uncontracted materials are submitted which now rest with his estate.

            I do not mean to speak as a cynic, but if there’s a sample chapter, if there is a chance of a real book, once rituals are observed, that ought to be put out asap. But I’m sensitive too, whether loved ones may not feel wholly happy to expose a life further, if only because everybody in this sport has to make such hard decisions with their personal time and families.

            Anyhow, another one just signed up for notification to receive a copy, if there will be one. I hope it is done well, and I do want there to be a book.

            1. I am sincerely stunned and terribly sorry for a typo above. What I thought I typed as “ghost” got transcribed as “mobster” I presume by the predictive input system on my surface tablet. Absolutely no way was that intended, not even in a Jeremy Clarkson way. My apologies to all for that, no insinuation was meant whatsoever. I can’t even figure out how to repeat the accident. Maybe the surface pro computer I use knows more about publishing than I suspected: calling ghost writers and those contracted to a publisher, often contractually above the author, to educe a book are often called names not far off “mobster”. But in the context, I’m very sorry for the error, and hope nothing of that nature is close to any of any of this in reality.

        2. Unfortunately, the publisher got cold feet exactly 1 week after announcing it. So it exists, but will we see it?

      1. Surely there is considerable demand for the book.

        Needless to say, when the family have had time to come to terms with this awful event they may want to look at whether to publish. They would be the ones to decide if and when.

  7. RIP Nige. I liiked him, especially when he got run over in Spain that time.

    The fundemental, unanswered question remains though – Why did he hand over so much technical information?

    I’ll admit I’ve done a very similar thing myself that almost landed me in court. I did it for myself though, for my own gain. I burnt those bridges for my own benefit. Loyalty was broken by me, for me.

    So, why did Nigel do it? What did he stand to gain?

    1. Nigel wanted to be Ross Brawn and believed that the package of him, Coughlan and the Ferrari info was useful to Honda or Toyota. Both declined the approach and Coughlan kept the data. I have seen no evidence that confirms that McLaren knew what he had. Some bits and bobs, perhaps, but that was quite normal at the time. Everyone had stuff from other teams, notably Renault which had piles of McLaren stuff. The McLaren punishment was entirely political in my opinion.

      1. Thank you, Joe, for this in-a-nutshell summary. It confirms what your regular readers will know, but clearly differs from the impression created by general jibber-jabber and indeed by the ‘Spygate’ label.

        Nigel Stepney’s passing may make this a good time to give the summary a post of its own, for the benefit of those who don’t dive quite so deep into the Comments. I know there is a lot that cannot be written, but this much can.

      2. Joe – does this explain Ron Dennis’s (apparent) dislike of Ferrari – at the start of the Bahrain GP he had a short interview which, in not so many words, told certain other people to shut up and get on with it – or are there just too many sensitive skeletons in so many cupboards at the moment that the truth about all that incident just cannot be revealed unless certain people shuffle off this mortal coil? I do know that Ron Dennis and Max Moseley couldn’t stand each other, and that had a lot to do with it.

        1. I think that comment by Ron was directed at Luca who just couldn’t cope with the rule changes.

      3. When Ron Denis returned to the helm and quickly hired Eric Boullier I thought part of his reasoning was to make relations a little easier with the FIA and Jean Todt. A political (French) appointment, perhaps?

      4. “The McLaren punishment was entirely political in my opinion.”

        I thought it was because of repeatedly being caught lying?
        IIRC, the FIA gave Ron and co. repeated chances to pony up and tell the truth, but they wouldn’t. Only then were they punished.
        Kinda like the Lie-gate deal. Gave em a shot to tell the truth, but they wouldn’t. Only then was punishment issued, and Cpt. Ron disappeared from the race team…

  8. A very sad loss of an organisational genius.
    Yet another book on F1 covert machinations that we long to read.
    Condolences to his family, they have the biggest loss.

  9. Regardless of which school of though you come from, he’s loss to everyone family, new company, old company. He will be missed

    1. Yes, as said by Joe, there must be very much more to the whole Spygate saga than came out then or since. It was quite obvious to anyone that RD was the principal target of attack by Mosley. What happened to Mac was hugely unfair and unjust. A fine of a £1m would have been ample for what may have been known. But Mosley wanted to bring down RD and he did,temporarily. Of course there’s nothing to say that the after effects of the £100m loss may have caused problems that still exist today at Mac. But of course, Max crashed far worse than RD and Ron is now back, whereas Max is firmly Yesterday’s Man!
      Alonso didn’t come out of it all whiter than white either!

      As to Nigel Stepney, what he did was clearly wrong, so too Coughlan. But he was still somebody who had a big impact on the sport in general, not just F1.

      He was also somebody’s partner, and Dad. Those two things are by far the most important aspects to remember today. My thoughts and prayers are for them today. Nothing else of the past really matters now. R.I P. Nigel.

      1. I agree with your last lines.
        Except that I’m also guessing that people don’t write books about an event like that unless they have more facts to tell than hitherto known, and they are confident that their version will exonerate them. Especially non-writers like Nigel.

        But that is a matter for the family and for the future ….

  10. The manuscript (Red Mist) does exist but no one appears to want to publish it as the last firm he had lined up decided to withdraw at the last minute, (2007). I think the issue now would be that there is no one left (primarily Stepney) who could defend (in court) anything written in the book were *someone* to have an issue with statements made in his book and then launch an action.The publisher would be solely held responsible (other then Stepney’s estate for costs) for the content and wouldn’t have the author available for their defense.

    I find it interesting that there was more then one publishing firm involved which had either passed on publishing or were interested in publishing and then changed their minds. One has to wonder what took place during this era – were manuscripts circulated that reached other interested parties whom set their solicitors into action with threats of legal action? I would bet on this and that the numbers were crunched (profits from book sales against cost of legal challenges) and publishers changed their minds.

    What would need to happen now is if another writer using this manuscript as a ‘basis’ for a new book – a biography lets say – did new research where facts could be supported with evidence and multiple sources.

    I think there is a really interesting story here to be told – the ‘Monaco issue’ alone screams out to me in particular as quite worthy alone as a whole chapter I’d love to read about.

    The internecine fighting between Aldo Costa and himself and the ‘floor saga’ is another chapter that I would find interesting.

    I fear a lot of F1 story’s such as Stepney’s and whom was behind the Max Mosley tape release/set up – will never be known due to the high cost of defending legal actions.

    1. I should have put my comment above here. There’s all sorts of reasons a book can get caught up in perfectly innocent wrangling for years, even as long as this. People buy options. There may be a ghost writer or co
      author or other assist. Sometimes things flake out and e.g. a ghost is not paid, will not hand over what’s considered important material by the author. There might be a desire to take it to a new publisher, or a argument over promotion. All that said, it is a fair few years, and I’m thinking first of all from experience that some would be authors have dragged their heels for what they think is a statutory six years statute of limitations. That’s one idea. I bet a book like this wild have attracted to the publisher many legal letters, even if just the usual ones bullying to know and see sight of copy in advance. That really is normal stuff. But, ouch, 2007 seems a blink ago. Whatever the delay, dull reasons almost always outnumber exciting reasons for a book being late.

      I do very much hope however that someone will gain the material who can mike something of it. For all I say above how i’d love there to be a personal story that stands above all the controversy, the chance is that Stepney has left a great deal of raw material from which a lot could be learned.

      If there is yet to be a book, I sadly imagine that that could be of intense interest in terms of who may approach his estate for any manner of reasons.

      I’ve personally had a life blighted by family fighting for control of my father’s manuscripts and diaries in the most horrifying of fashions, that spilled over into my life, and another’s life, in a unexpected way last year which isn’t even recognised yet. That’s definitely a cover up of abuse and grief and suffering and suicides. So two awful stories and two bloody cover up calamities, Something tangential, a vector by which I was attacked to muddy my life contributed to me being unable to act as I needed to to address another tragedy of abuse, and I found documents discussing me that would make anyone paranoid. A historical abuse never stopped causing more and took another victim because of will to cover up, and intersected with a separate cover up. Okay that may be exceptional, but messing about in a estate to publish a real story of someone is a sure fire contention.

      If I had any advice for his family, it would be to not delay. Detractors and those who wish nothing to be told have a way of insinuating themselves into pernicious positions they find they cannot back out from, because it comes down to admission of error being equivalent to guilt, the cover up always worse than the crime, not saying there is crime to be uncovered. Yup, seriously and with personal passion, my advice would be to pounce on all material and do so as openly as possible, and if there’s a book, buy it out or whatever is needed, and do it now. I truly and genuinely mean it that no matter how upsetting everything is, having a argument protracted about family history locked away in manuscripts is far worse than the possibility you may get a few threatening letters. A good libel lawyer will see a clear path very quickly. Grab a couple of books of any kind on libel and you’ll know more than most libel lawyers are going to advise you. I banged on about this in many posts before with the general drift libel is so poorly understood than the effect of most of it is only deterrent and when deterrent mostly wrong. I did just have to change my outlook from above, having realised the possibilities for a work not only trampled in estate but contentious to the man’s dearest. I would beg them, if I were given a audience, to be strong decisive and quick about any book howsoever it may exist.

      Just another thought which is a whole subject, but in this digital age, it is very possible materials necessary to understanding the man are beyond reach and beyond accessibility. Encrypted files and so on could make it impossible to retrace a life. Online and remote or cloud storage. There could be arguments about overall ownership if private is admired with work, causing the personal to be held hostage.

      The law provides for a Anton Piller order to seize copyright materials in what is in effect a raid, with police assistance provided. They are easily obtained in a situation like this. Consider everything and anything vital. For example some of my documents are accessible with a key to which a associate keeps copy. So if you are family in a situation like this, serve orders broadly, without notice, get a list of who may be entrusted enjoined to freeze any handling of documents or possessions, being careful a physical object may need to be specified such as a encryption key dongle that may not be normal in a Anton Pillar order wording to note, and place absolutely everyone even potentially concerned on notice of a hearing at which you will attend anyway to file the reason for securing copyright materials.

      Sorry I’m a bit panicky in my tone. I absolutely would be on this overnight. Because as remote as it may be, people prey on the grief of relatives because in that grief you are too trusting of sympathy. Even without malice, because of digital storage and access to that something vital could simply be left innocuously with a friend who has no idea at all what is in their safe keep. But just do this anyway. Don’t let it be “something the lawyers will sort out later”.

      I want to apologise even because I have been scarred by not getting things right like this. There is a prejudice against legal action in grief, and beware who argues that against you, my experience is so rotten – and hence my apology – I sincerely hope there’s no necessity. But my experience is so rotten I feel upset at the thought, and rotten doesn’t begin to describe anything. In this case, where it may be there’s any number of associates in the line of work innocently, it is ever more important to establish rights of the beneficiaries, who now own copyright and not only to maybe a book formula one may want very much to read, but also private writing they may decide later whether to read, but ought not be denied to them. I’m extremely biased about this sort of thing, I am struggling to regain even some copies of letters I promise to bind for their recipient, which have been illegally seized. If I let on but a touch more, I cannot imagine you’d not also be convinced.

      1. Thank you John (other John). Of your many posts this strikes me as the most important. Hope you a/o others you know have a chance to say to the family what you’ve said here. Hardly farfetched to think that some would go to any length to prevent his story from coming out.

      1. Rightwinggit: The quotes for the floor saga were taken as others suggested from Mr. Stepney’s letter to the FIA (Copies to R. Dennis & J. Todt). I put quotations around the Monaco incident only because there was an extraordinary event which was alleged to have occurred six days before the Monaco GP to wit that Ferrari alleged there was an attempt at sabotage by use of an (unknown to this day) ‘white powder’ in or around the fuel cells of the teams race cars while they were at the factory. From there on in as they say – it got ‘weird’. There are many accounts around on the web about this incident and true or false – it begs – no screams – for someone to put down electrons to screen, the details and outcome of research into this incident. As I suggested earlier, it would be but *one* interesting chapter to a biography that many race fans would clamoring to read…

        It is regrettable for his family that Mr.Stepney is no longer with us due to his accident and perhaps some day we can read an unbiased treatment that can set the record straight – or as straight as these things can be set considering we are talking about F1.

          1. Neither do I Joe. I tried to figure out what this ‘white powder’ item was. Seems a bit over the top considering there would be far more elegant ways to do things considering his noted abilities. Betting it was a mechanic spilling his coffee creamer and everyone panicking. The crude way of disabling a car would be what the Life mechanics did by not putting any oil in Gary Brabham’s engine in protest over something, (wages?). I think it was reported he got to the first turn in Brazil before it blew up. Gary left the team after that commenting it could have been worse as they might have tampered with the brakes if they were really upset…

    2. The floor saga is mentioned and described in broad terms in his letter to the FIA which was published, both by Joe’s ex publication and Autosport and was still there when I looked the other day. It also loosely describes the chain of events leading to documents passing and proving some rule breaking. Thus it could be said now to be in the public domain and even alone, reveals much.

  11. A good summary, Sir. Read all those stories of espionage, him as an employee embittered and estranged, etc., but without a bigger picture ever presented. Now, Nigel Stepney, an obvious case of epistemic arrogance. He just couldn’t come to terms of what he actually was capable of, and worth. Ambitions bigger than the man himself. Anyone happens to misunderstand one’s own limitations. RIP, and what an unfortunate end to life.

  12. If he truly wanted to get the word out, all he needed was a website, which are as good as free these days.

  13. This happened on the night of the 20th anniversary of Senna’s death, a driver that he worked with in the past. Coincidence?

    1. At least one coincidence…….

      ……I though exactly the same thing, although in acknowledgement of Joe’s comment it was 1 hour 26 minutes after the day had passed……

    2. “Coincidence?”
      If it had happened on the same day, yes it would have been a coincidence.
      Just like the deaths of Antonio and Alberto Ascari were a coincidence despite the eery similarities.

      A tragic end to a life and we can only hope with time that he is remembered for his accomplishments and not the controversy that surrounded him in recent years.

      1. Sadly, if you look at the headlines, they all seem to lead with something along the lines of “…….the man at the centre of the F1 Spygate afair….”

  14. I worked with Nigel at Benetton and also knew him well during his Lotus days. Despite all that followed in later years, I remember him as larger than life, clever, knowledgable and, most of all, great fun. RIP Nigel – my sincere condolences go out to your family. Thank you for all the good memories! X

  15. It’s sad that a man of so much ability and so ability has died so young, in such a lonely place, and that he’ll be remembered for his sins first and for his many other achievements and qualities only second. He deserves better. Almost all of us do.

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