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Renault prepared to double Budkowski's gardening leave

Marcin Budkowski, former head of the FIA's Formula 1 technical department
© WRI

Renault F1's managing director Cyril Abiteboul has said that the team is prepared to double the amount of time that Marcin Budkowski is on gardening leave before he joins them in 2018.

The FIA's former Formula 1 technical chief resigned from his post last week. Renault confirmed today that the 40-year-old Polish-born aerodynamicist would be joining them as executive director next season.

However, other teams are unhappy that someone with Budkowski's inside knowledge of research and development across the sport is joining a competitor. Officially there is just a three-month cooling-off period, which would see him start at Enstone in January.

Aware of the concerns, Renault has offered to double the length of Budkowski's so-called 'gardening leave' in order to allay criticism of the signing.

"There’s been a lot of talk about it," Abiteboul said. "Not from us. We always made it clear we would not want to be aggressive in relation to that.

"From a contract perspective, he could be available as soon as early next year," he confirmed. "But we’ve had constructive discussions with the FIA.

"I think we are close to reaching an agreement on a start date that would make everyone be comfortable," he said. "Early April, which is basically twice his gardening provision which has been discussed.

"It’s not completely confirmed yet," he added. "But that’s something we are completely prepared to entertain, as far as we are concerned."

He pointed out that development on 2018 cars was too far along to be significantly impacted by Budkowski's move.

"All the designs of next year's car are already frozen. We are in the process of manufacturing moulds. Suspension, geometry, all that is already decided for six months. It's not something that is going to be influenced, and things will start from scratch from 2019.

"There is a limited influence someone like that can make to a car," he insisted. "It's not going to make a huge difference.

"When you recruit someone it's not a short-term opportunity," he continued. "We are taking that person because he has the skills. He has the experience of Formula 1 that is required for our programme and for our project, which is to become a top team by 2020, full-stop. It's not for what he knows today."

Abiteboul was also asked whether Budkowski was approached by Renault before or after tendering his resignation to the FIA.

"It's always an opportunity coming from both ways," Abiteboul admitted. "Always when a demand and an offer is meeting somewhere, that simply happened somewhere in the last couple of weeks.

"Approaching people is unfortunately part of Formula 1," he said. "Its also a part of why Formula 1 is competitive, and you have a level playing field and an interesting show and races.

"We often talk about the distortion created by the disparity of resources. But you also need to have some freedom of people within the organisations so that racing is interesting.

"There were some feelings that Marcin wanted to do some career progression," he explained. "[He wanted to move] away from the pure technical role that he is in currently to a wider management responsibility, which is something we had on offer."

Budkowski will be based at the Enstone factory and report directly to Abiteboul. He will work above the team's existing senior technical team including Bob Bell, Nick Chester and Rob White.

"Marcin is coming in a non-technical capacity," Abiteboul said.

"We tried something with Fred Vasseur which unfortunately did not work out. Fred has now found a position with Sauber. [But] there was still a gap and a position to be filled [at Renault] simply because there is a lot to be done.

"I just needed some help and someone I could trust and that can work alongside me, in particular in development of the Enstone team."

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