Chester advocates one-year gardening leave for FIA staff

Nick Chester, Renault
© RenaultSport

Renault Formula 1 technical chief Nick Chester has suggested that key personnel leaving the FIA for a role elsewhere in Formula 1 should have to sit out a one-year spell of gardening leave.

The subject has become a hot topic in the sport after two controversial signings in recent months.

Last September, the FIA's technical officer Marcin Budkowski quit his post to take up a management role at Renault. And last month, the FIA's deputy race director and safety delegate Laurent Mekies handed in his notice after being head-hunted by Ferrari.

Rivals teams fear that both men's insider knowledge of research and development across the sector could give their new employers an unfair advantage.

FIA contracts are subject to Swiss employment law which only provides for a maximum three month transition period. An extended period of enforced gardening leave was called for by the teams.

As a result, both Renault and Ferrari voluntarily doubled this to six months in the case of their new signings. Budkowski is expected to report in at Enstone for the first time this week. Mekies meanwhile won't be at Maranello until September.

But even this is thought by some to be too short a cooling off period.

"I think a year is probably okay," Chester told this week.

However Chester felt that the risk of confidential data being leaked to teams was being overstated. He said that FIA officials didn't know as much about the work of individual F1 teams as sometimes appeared.

"The FIA obviously know what questions get asked by the teams," Chester commented. "But when a team asks a question [the FIA] don’t always know the intent behind it.

"They don’t always know all the design details," he pointed out.

"There’s this feeling that all the guys in the FIA know loads about all the cars," he added. "They can’t, because they haven’t got the bandwidth to get that deeply into the detail."

Ferrari's decision to hire Mekies has come under particular attack by other teams, who believe it violated a 'gentlemen's agreement' not to poach further FIA staff in the short term.

"It was agreed by all teams at the last Strategy Group meeting," said McLaren sporting director Eric Boullier. "No key technical FIA employees would be employed by a race team within 12 months of leaving the FIA."

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