SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said the French manufacturer’s Formula One team were prepared to consider an April 2018 joining date for new recruit Marcin Budkowski, after hiring the former technical head of the sport’s governing body in a move that has upset rivals.
Budkowski, who left his role at the International Automobile Federation (FIA) last week, will join Renault as executive director overseeing all activities related to the development and production of the Enstone-based team’s chassis, the team said in a statement on Friday.
The Pole is barred from taking up other employment for three months after leaving the FIA. But in his role as head of the FIA’s technical department, Budkowski was privy to top-secret details of competitors’ latest innovations and teams feel a hiatus of three months is too short for a person with his level of access to serve before beginning work at another competitor.
“I believe that we are close to reaching an agreement on the start date that would make everyone be comfortable,” Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of the Formula One team’s parent Renault Sport Racing division, told reporters.
“I think that the date of early April, which is basically twice his gardening provision has been discussed.”Nothing has been confirmed yet but that is something that we are completely prepared to entertain.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was one of several team bosses to express reservations about the length of Budkowski’s gardening leave.Speaking to Sky F1 on Friday the Briton said the Pole’s hiring would be discussed at the next meeting of the sport’s Strategy Group. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the industry standard for the hiatus period was six months to a year or even more. Abiteboul said an April 2018 start for Budkowski would mean he would be joining too late to have an influence on next season’s car, with the design already locked in. “… Because of the obsolescence of information in Formula One, it’s not going to make a huge difference,” said Abiteboul. “We have taken that person because he has the skills, he has the experience of Formula One… it’s not for what he knows today.” Renault returned to Formula One with a works team last year after buying the struggling Lotus squad. The team have made major progress in 2017, scoring 42 points after 15 of this season’s 20 races compared to eight in total last year.
Budkowski’s hiring is part of a push the team, who won two drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006, are making that they hope will lift them into a position to challenge their leading rivals by 2020. They have agreed a deal with Red Bull for highly-rated Spaniard Carlos Sainz to drive for them on loan alongside German Nico Hulkenberg next year.
Editing by Ed Osmond