Mercedes sues Ferrari defector over data theft

Mercedes has launched legal action against an employee it has accused of stealing confidential data ahead of a move to Formula One rivals Ferrari.

The Mercedes team celebrates after winning the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.   -  AP

Mercedes has launched legal action against an employee it has accused of stealing confidential data ahead of a move to Formula One rivals Ferrari, British website Autosport reported on Tuesday.

According to Autosport, a filing at London's High Court shows that Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) is suing engineer Benjamin Hoyle, who is due to join Ferrari at the start of next year.

HPP is reportedly calling for Hoyles, an employee since 2012, to be prevented from joining Ferrari or another F1 team until the end of the 2016 season.

In a statement, Mercedes said: "A legal action is underway involving Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd and an employee who is due to leave the company at the end the year. The company has taken the appropriate legal steps to protect its intellectual property. We ask for your understanding that we do not wish to comment further on this matter."

Mercedes is said to be demanding that Hoyle hand over all documents relating to the matter and be prevented from using any of the information in his possession.

Hoyle joined Mercedes in December 2012 as one of four team leaders in the company's F1 engineering department and is reported to have served notice on his contract, due to expire at the end of this month, in May 2014.

Autosport claims Hoyle was assigned to non-F1 projects last April as Mercedes "wished to manage the intellectual property" to which he had access.

The website says he was also given a new, wiped-clean laptop, a new email address and log-in details and that Mercedes restricted the areas of the company's building that he was allowed to access.

Mercedes's case is said to be that after this date, Hoyle breached clauses in his contract by covertly removing hard-copy documents containing confidential F1-related information.

The case recalls F1's 'Spygate' affair, which saw McLaren fined $100 million (92 million euros) euros and banned from the 2007 constructors' championship after Ferrari accused its rivals of stealing technical data.