Nigel Stepney on the pit box during the 2006 Spanish GP. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

on the pit box during the 2006 Spanish GP. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

Former chief mechanic Nigel Stepney was killed in a highway accident in England on Friday morning. Stepney, who was 56, was involved in a collision with a truck.

Although sadly his name will always be associated with the 2007 ‘Spygate’ scandal – an affair that cost him his career in F1 – he should be acknowledged as a key member of the dream team that achieved so much success in the Michael Schumacher era.

Stepney began his career in touring cars, and later worked for Shadow, (with Elio de Angelis and Ayrton Senna) and (with Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher).

He joined Ferrari in 1992, shortly before Jean Todt was headhunted from Peugeot as the new team boss. Stepney’s job was to introduce ‘British’ working practices to the Ferrari race team, which was lacking in organization.

He played a key role in drilling the mechanics and especially in improving reliability – one of the key elements that brought Schumacher so much success from 2000 onwards. He eventual earned the job title of head of performance development.

Only last week former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello emphasized Stepney’s role: “Nigel was a super chief mechanic. He was able to really go after reliability and everything. There were people who didn’t like him there, because he was hard on people and so on, but we cannot deny the fact that he was unbelievable in making reliability a big focus.”

After the spy scandal he reemerged in sportscar racing, latterly with the JRM outfit in the WEC and the Blancpain GT series

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