The Mercedes spy scandal has taken an unexpected twist after Ferrari has denied that engineer Ben Hoyle will join the Italian team.
Mercedes has understood since May 2014 that Hoyle, a senior man in the F1 engine division, would be going to Maranello. He carried on as normal until April 2015, when he was assigned to other projects and in effect put on a 37-week gardening leave so that he would not have access to current F1 data.
However, Ferrari now says that while it had contact with Hoyle, he will not be going to the team. A spokesman stated that: “I don’t know in 20 years from now, but for the foreseeable future he’s not joining us.”
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Meanwhile, more information about the case has emerged via Mercedes court documents. They confirm that Hoyle was transferred to DTM and road car duties in April and thereafter was not allowed physical or online access to the F1 department. He was also given a new company laptop, and a new email address, so that he wouldn’t receive F1 data by mistake.
However, in September a senior colleague caught him reading a report about the Hungarian GP on his laptop. Court documents say: “Mr. Hoyle opened on his laptop screen the Hungarian Grand Prix race report. When Mr. Hoyle’s former line manager, Owen Jones, approached Mr. Hoyle’s desk where the race report was visible on Mr. Hoyle’s laptop, Mr. Hoyle disconnected the cable supplying power to the laptop, thereby shutting down the laptop. Mr. Hoyle did this in an attempt to conceal his wrongdoing.”
This incident triggered a major investigation that involved 167 man hours of Mercedes personnel time, as well as input from two forensic computer analysis firms, Stroz Freidberg and CCL.
Mercedes claims that Hoyle had taken confidential hard copy documents, and well as downloading others, after he was supposed to have no F1 involvement. He also uploaded a document to a website, and saved data to various personal devices. Company rules allow employees to use only a specified USB device. Among the documents he is said to have taken are:
– “A race report from the Hungary 2015 Grand Prix which took place on 26 July 2015”
– “Mileage and damage data relating to HPP’s F1 engines in the 2015 F1 season until 14 Sept. 2015”
– “Files containing the code required to decrypt the raw data files”
– “Files relating to the compressor performance of HPP’s F1 engines”
– “Encrypted raw data files, containing very detailed data about engine performance, used to produce the race reports”
Mercedes adds that Hoyle understood the restrictions under which he was supposed to be working, and that he took “anti-forensic steps to conceal the fact that he had save to the laptop confidential information,” including deleting files, running a disc fragmenter programme, and “copying large numbers of innocuous files to ‘fill’ the hard drive of the laptop, overwriting the deleted material.”