Sport Motorsport War of words between Ferrari and Red Bull marks the start of Grand Prix weekend
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War of words between Ferrari and Red Bull marks the start of Grand Prix weekend

No happy faces as Ferrari's Maurizio Arrivabene (left) traded barbs with Red Bull's Christian Horner. Photo: XPB/PA
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Red Bull chief Christian Horner has blasted Formula One rival Maurizio Arrivabene over Ferrari’s decision to hire a key FIA official.

The pair were in open disagreement at a fiery press conference on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Horner believes Ferrari broke a gentleman’s agreement reached at a recent Formula One strategy group meeting by signing FIA safety director Laurent Mekies.

It comes after rival teams were angered by a similar move by Renault, which hired FIA technical director Marcin Budkowski late last year.

In their roles with the sport’s governing body, both men worked with sensitive technical information from every F1 team.

Horner believes Ferrari’s move is not in the spirit of fair competition and breaks an agreement for teams to make new employees from the FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) wait 12 months before starting – a period known as gardening leave.

“For me, it is a big deal,” Horner said from the Albert Park circuit.

“There was an understanding … a clear statement by the teams to say that there should at least be a period of 12 months in the garden for a member of the FOM or FIA going to a team or vice versa.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon as 12 months.

“What’s disappointing is that meeting was less than six weeks ago … arguably discussions (between Ferrari and Mekies) were probably happening at the time.

“It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Horner named Ferrari as the team that wanted a three-year period, which only added to his dismay at news of Meckies’ hiring.

The Red Bull boss accused Ferrari of hiding behind a lack of specific regulations dealing with the issue because of the differing employment laws of countries where teams are based.

An unapologetic Arrivabene defended the move and scolded Horner for discussing the issue publicly.

“First of all there is nothing wrong with that because we are respecting, absolutely, the local law … the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” Arrivabene said.

“And we went even further than that because we gave him six months gardening leave.

“Before the discussion with the strategy group we signed a confidentiality agreement that means that we are not allowed to discuss or share in public what we discussed.

“But I heard comments related to a supposed gentleman’s agreement … in the local law that’s illegal.”

-AAP