Horner: Ferrari's capture of FIA man Mekies is "wrong"

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Horner: Ferrari's capture of FIA man Mekies is
Jonathan Noble
By: Jonathan Noble
Mar 21, 2018, 4:11 PM

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says the situation surrounding Ferrari’s swoop for FIA safety chief Laurent Mekies is "wrong".

Charlie Whiting, FIA Delegate and Laurent Mekies, FIA Safety Director
FIA Safety Director Laurent Mekies and F1 Technical and Sporting Coordinator Marcin Budkowski.
Ferrari garage screens
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal
 Laurent Mekies, F1 Deputy Race Director, FIA, Charlie Whiting, FIA Race Director, host a press conference about the introduction of the halo
Laurent Mekies, FIA Safety Director in the Ferrari garage
Ferrari SF71H bodywork detail
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari Team Principal
Charlie Whiting, FIA Delegate walks the track
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport F1 Team, Helmut Markko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal and Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport F1 Managing Director

Ferrari's signing of Mekies caused controversy last week when it emerged that he would be joining the Italian outfit in September, just six months on from handing in his notice.

This flies in the face of what other teams believe was a gentleman's agreement made at the last Strategy Group meeting for teams not to employ FIA personnel unless they had had a 12-month period of gardening leave.

Although Ferrari sources have denied any such agreement was made, Horner is adamant that those in the meeting knew exactly what the situation was.

"It was quite clear – that with the FIA, FOM or vice versa from a team - that there would be a 12-month grace period," Horner told Motorsport.com.

"I even made comments that it should be accompanied with a million dollar donation to the FIA Road Safety Foundation – which the president [Jean Todt] was particularly receptive to.

"So what is disappointing is that within six weeks of that meeting, here we are with an individual that will be going with a huge amount of knowledge and know-how.

"Only last November/December, our technical staff are sitting in meetings discussing with him suspension systems, etc., and that is his value.

"And it is wrong – because you place trust in these officials, rightly so, because they are the governing body. It is wrong then for that to end up at a competitor.

"With the best will in the world, his value is his knowledge. Okay he is good at his job but his value is enhanced by the fact that he knows privileged information, which isn't illegal for him to take there as long as he hasn't got drawings or data, which I obviously doubt very much that he has.

"But he still has the know-how in his head and that is something… it is not what we agreed."

Pushed on Ferrari's claims that there was no agreement in place, Horner responded: "We were in the room. And the gentlemen that agreed it know about it."

Budkowski affair

This Strategy Group agreement hoped to prevent a repeat of the furore that Renault caused when it signed former FIA technical delegate Marcin Budkowski, prompting fears of him taking teams' secrets with him.

Renault accepted that the situation was not good and delayed Budkowski's arrival at its F1 operation until he had been out of the FIA for six months.

Although some have suggested that something more than a gentleman's agreement over the matter should have been in place, Horner says anything more formal would have been hard to implement because of employment law around the world.

He furthermore expects the matter to be put on the agenda of the next Strategy Group meeting that takes place next month.

"I think it is tremendously disappointing because we agreed only a couple of months ago in a meeting that employment law is something very difficult to control – particularly across countries with different legislations and employment rules," said Horner.

"But what was absolutely clear, and it was something that I tabled: that we could not enforce this through regulation or law, but we can have a clear gentlemen's agreement.

"Nobody was happy with what happened with Budkowski, but Renault did the right thing and managed to dilute that by saying: 'okay he will not start for whatever period of time it was'.

"What was particularly disappointing was that Ferrari were the most vociferous and wanted a three year garden leave period. So to go from three years to a few months it is not what was agreed at all. I am sure it will go on the agenda for the next meeting."

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble
Article type Breaking news