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Stepney critical of his handling by the FIA

Nigel Stepney has welcomed the FIA's announcement that it cannot officially sanction the former Ferrari mechanic, but he slammed the governing body for its handling of his affair over the past six months.

The FIA said yesterday it could not ban Stepney from working in motor racing, since he is not a sanctioned license holder.

Nevertheless, the governing body issued a recommendation to all its license holders to consider carefully if they should collaborate with the Briton prior to July 1st 2009.

Reacting to the FIA's statement, Stepney said today he was "delighted that the FIA have backed down" from their threat to ban him from motorsport but criticised the fact it took the FIA several months to reach this conclusion.

"They may want to do some due diligence themselves before simply accepting one side of the story," Stepney said in a statement released by his lawyers in the UK.

According to the statement, Stepney himself "admits that a former McLaren engineer and friend of 20 years had obtained very limited information as a result of his carelessness".

"Frankly, I should have known better," Stepney was quoted as saying. "But it sure as hell wasn't the 780-page dossier the FIA saw, and which I've just been shown for the first time by the Italian authorities."

Stepney is under criminal investigation in Italy for suspected industrial espionage against his then-employers Ferrari, but the veteran mechanic has maintained throughout his innocence in the matter, denying he gave McLaren then-chief designer Mike Coughlan a dossier of 780 pages, containing confidential Ferrari information.

Sian Nath, of Stepney's UK law firm Coyle White Devine, said: "It should be noted that Mr Stepney has never admitted any dishonest intention. The FIA is fully aware of that.

"Our client blew the whistle on certain matters to FIA officials; that is not in any contention. The Italian authorities were made aware of this last month; they, too, accept his position."

Stepney himself said he was particularly frustrated by the fact that he wrote in detail to FIA president Max Mosley in August last year, and that the FIA has not met with him since.

Stepney denied the FIA's statement, which said he had admitted to passing Ferrari secrets to McLaren employees and apologised for it.

"It'll all come out in the book," said Stepney, who plans to release his autobiography later this year.

"Right now, I'm getting on with the job that's been my life and enjoying my family, who've suffered enormously and stood by me throughout, in peace."

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