I’ll be honest, I’m not one to peddle in conspiracies, as much as I find the amusing, but the departure of two key FIA employees has me wondering. When it was announced that Marcin Budkowski was leaving for Renault, it cause quite a stir as it was argued that in his role, he had keen insight to all of the tricks of the trade for each teams 2018 car.
When Laurent Mekies decided to leave for Ferrari, it started to poke my inner conspiracy theorist as to whey two very key technical employees were leaving the FIA. Why would they jump out of what is arguably a very nice job at the regulatory body of F1 and motorsport?
Sauber’s Fredric Vasseur told Autosport:
“It’s a shame that we are not in the situation that the FIA could find a solution to keep their key guys.
“I remember perfectly the situation with Marcin, he was in all the windtunnels two weeks before he left.
“Laurent is aware of key details of every single car, even if he was more focused on safety he’s aware of the key structure.
“At one stage, if we can’t trust them it will be an issue because we need to be very open with the FIA.
“We need to ask them if we’re in the regulations or not. If we are scared about this, it will be the beginning of a mess.”
The teams have to disclose a lot of very technical and proprietary information with the FIA and as Vassuer stated, if they can’t be trusted, that is an issue. I am also curious is the FIA employees know something we don’t about the future of the FIA and its regulatory oversight over F1.
I am not trying to create a false narrative here so take this with a grain of salt but with the resurgence of the commercial rights owner’s technical input and direction via Ross Brawn, it has left me wondering what the FIA is actually doing these days other than ushering in things lie HALO, hybrid engines and more DRS zones.
FIA president, Jean Todt, has been silent over the past three seasons but this year he seems to be more vocal than usual. Is there a power struggle going on? Doe the FIA employees sense a split by Ferrari and Mercedes? Is there a power swing to the commercial rights holders and teams that the FIA folks feel is not good news for the FIA? Is this all just a case of teams poaching FIA employees with large salaries in order to gain insight to technical information?
Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said: “The time between leaving the FIA and starting at Ferrari should have been increased to at least a year.
“It’s difficult to stop people from moving from the FIA to teams but that time you have to sit out should be big enough to where you can’t take intellectual property from one team because you have a privileged position at the FIA to another. That’s not fair.”
The challenge here is employment law. In the US, non-compete clauses are not looked upon very favorably and having fought a few of my them myself, I can tell you that anything over 12 months is considered onerous on the employee and perhaps in Switzerland it is closer to three months. The FIA will need to follow the current employment law and I am not an expert on European employment law so I am unclear as to if the employee signed a non-compete for 12 months, if it would stick in court.
I find the entire situation curious to say the least and it will be interesting to see if this rash of departures has anything to do with the FIA and it’s role down the road.
Hat Tip: Autosport