Formula 1 team bosses Maurizio Arrivabene and Christian Horner have clashed in a war of words over the move of Laurent Mekies from the FIA to Ferrari.
Red Bull team principal Horner told Motorsport.com this week that Mekies' hiring had contravened a gentleman's agreement over FIA personnel following the controversy over Marcin Budkowski's move to Renault.
Horner backed up McLaren's Eric Boullier in insisting that all the teams had agreed to respect a gardening leave of 12 months for any former FIA or F1 employees who move to a team.
Mekies, who is still employed by the FIA but has been taken off F1 duties, will start at Ferrari just six months after his move was made public.
Arrivabene remains adamant that Ferrari has not broken an agreement, and suggested that his fellow team bosses shouldn't go public about what happens in Strategy Group meetings.
"First of all there was nothing wrong, we were respecting absolutely the local law, the Swiss local law, where Laurent was hired," said Arrivabene. "And afterwards we went even further, to have six months of gardening leave.
"I heard comments related to a supposed or so-called gentleman's agreement. A gentleman's agreement under labour law is illegal. I thought that they were just comments, no more than that, I hope."
Arrivabene argued that while the matter was discussed at the meeting, no actual agreement was made due to employment law concerns, and that the FIA legal department had been asked to come back with answers at the next Strategy Group meeting.
Horner, who shared the FIA press conference stage in Melbourne with Arrivabene and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, remained adamant that Ferrari was in the wrong.
"For me it is a big deal," said Horner. "I think the disappointing element about this is we have a thing called the Strategy Group, where the FIA, FOM and all team principals attended.
"We discussed the Marcin [Budkowski] issue where there was great unrest about a key member of the FIA going to a team, which in this case was Renault.
"Renault diluted that by putting him on an extended gardening leave. But then ensued a conversation about it's unacceptable, every team found it unacceptable.
"There was an understanding, and a clear statement by the teams to stay 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 FOM or FIA to a team or vice versa.'
"Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years. But in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months."
Horner questioned the value of the Strategy Group, given that the teams had seemingly been unable to respect an agreement made under its auspices.
He also suggested that Ferrari was in contact with Mekies even before the agreement was discussed.
"What's disappointing is that that meeting was less than six weeks ago. Arguably, discussions were probably happening at that time.
"It also makes those meetings pointless, if we can't agree on something and action it. Of course, you can hide behind, 'It's not in the regulations,' but as a group we agreed something, it hasn't been adhered to, and one questions what's the point of having those meetings.
"I think what's most disappointing about it is that it was Ferrari or Sergio [Marchionne] that was pushing for a three-year period. So on the one hand you get a team pushing for a three-year gestation, and a few weeks later, we're in this situation.
"So as I say, it makes discussions in the forum more or less a waste of time."
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