The loss of Ayrton Senna, who had decided to try his luck at Williams, was a factor in their undoing. The absence of a true leader on track also hurt them. Mika Hakkinen was still a hot prospect and Martin Brundle hadn’t had the results his talent deserved until then. They had no decent engine supplier options because Honda was long gone and Renault was not an option. The Peugeot V10 was the only logical choice, but not one that could bring miracles. The team had 0 podiums and 16 DNFs to its tally. Hakkinen and Brundle did what they could, ending the season on the fourth and seventh places.
It was the year in which, rookie Lewis Hamilton and his experienced teammate Fernando Alonso fought for the crown until the very end. They lost the title to Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. But what completely ruined the team’s season wasn’t Hamilton’s performance, it was much more complicated than that. If it wasn’t for a F1 fan in England who became curious with some photocopies in his paper shop and world maybe wouldn’t know that the British team had placed moles among their biggest rivals of the time – Ferrari. The Maranello armada (still with some Ross Brawn input) had developed a very efficient car to the grooved tyres and in accordance with the rules. Nigel Stepney, who worked closely with Michael Schumacher and expected to have a bigger role on the Italian team hierarchy, turned out to be the man who leaked the data to Woking. An email exchange between test driver Pedro de La Rosa and Alonso confirmed this. Designer Mike Coughlan was the one that benefitted of the confidential information. Firstly the FIA decided that there was no further evidence of the theft. But the case soon ended up in the Court of Appeal. New elements appeared to confirm the irregular behaviour. Hamilton and Alonso were allowed to retain their points since they were not directly involved in the case. The team lost their points and fined a record US$ 100 million.