Ferrari and Red Bull Formula 1 team bosses Maurizio Arrivabene and Christian Horner have clashed over Laurent Mekies' pending move to Maranello amid claims that a gentleman’s agreement was broken regarding gardening leave periods that must be served by senior FIA staff.

Ferrari announced last week that FIA safety director and deputy race director Mekies would be joining its technical team in September after serving a six-month gardening leave period from leaving F1’s governing body.

The episode led to comparisons to former FIA technical chief Marcin Budkowski’s move to Renault last year that flared concerns about sensitive information about other teams’ cars being taken to a rival.

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier claimed Mekies’ move contravened a “gentleman’s agreement” to ensure no staff member would join a team within 12 months of leaving the FIA or the F1 Group, but Arrivabene dismissed the concern.

“There is nothing wrong with that. We were respecting absolutely local law, the Swiss local law, where Laurent was hired,” Arrivabene said.

“Afterwards we went even further than that because we gave him six months of gardening leave.”

Arrivabene went on to say he hoped Boullier’s remarks were “just comments and no more than that,” noting that a “supposed or so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’” was not legally binding.

While Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agreed with Arrivabene, saying Mekies’ move to be “completely different” to the Budkowski case, Horner expressed his disappointment in Ferrari’s failure to adhere to the grace period allegedly agreed by teams at the F1 Strategy Group meeting, calling it a “big deal”.

“There was an understanding and a clear statement by the teams to say, right, let’s have a clear position that there should be at least a period of 12 months in the garden for a member of a team going from either FIA or FOM to a team or from a team to vice-versa,” Horner said.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months. What’s disappointing is that that meeting was less than six weeks ago. Arguably, discussions were probably happening at that time, which makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.

“Of course, you can hide behind saying that it’s not in the regulations, but as a group, we agreed something. It hasn’t been adhered to, so the question is what is the point of having those meetings?”

Arrivabene responded by saying the Strategy Group “gave a mandate to the FIA – to the lawyers of the FIA – to check national law and come back to us at the next Strategy Group” before making a ruling.

“This is what the FIA is going to do at the next strategy group, which is on the 17th of April,” he added.

Horner closed out the war of words by saying: “I think what’s most disappointing about it is that it was Ferrari, or Sergio [Marchionne], who was pushing for a three-year period.

“On one hand you get a team pushing for a three-year gestation, and then a few weeks later we are in this situation.

“It makes discussions in that forum a waste of time.”

Mekies is due to join Ferrari in September, and has already stepped down as the FIA's deputy race director ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

 

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