The espionage scandal involving Ferrari's Nigel Stepney deepened late on Tuesday when McLaren admitted that one of its senior technical staff is also implicated. Woking based McLaren did not name him, but it is widely reported to be 48-year-old chief designer Mike Coughlan, who has been suspended, "regarding the receipt of technical information" from countryman Stepney.

McLaren, insisting that it will "fully cooperate" with Ferrari's own investigation and that of Italian police, said: "The team has learnt that this individual had personally received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April." Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug declined to comment, but a spokesman for Ferrari said: "We have proof that Stepney had been supplying technical information to a McLaren employee and we found evidence of that fact in his (Coughlan's) home."

Other publications were unsuccessful in attempting to contact Coughlan and Stepney, who have known each other for seventeen years and worked together at Benetton and latterly at Ferrari's former technical base in Surrey. Coughlan still lives in Surrey (UK), where police raided his home this week and apparently found incriminating evidence.

A spokesman for F1's governing body, meanwhile, said: "We have received information on this matter, which we are examining." (GMM)

FIA to probe Ferrari-McLaren spy scandal

F1's governing body has apparently accepted McLaren's invitation to launch an investigation into the spy scandal saga involving Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan.

The FIA said on Wednesday that its newly initiated inquest will be conducted "with the full cooperation of both teams".

McLaren had earlier insisted that "no Ferrari intellectual property" had been used for the design of its current MP4-22 single seater, and "invited the FIA to conduct a full review of its cars" to verify this claim.

Ferrari expressed concern that its information seems to have passed illegally from the sacked Stepney to McLaren's now suspended chief designer Coughlan, saying in its own statement that it reserved the right "to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature". (GMM)