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Formula One: Renault spark fury with Budkowski swoop

© AFP / by Alastair HIMMER | Renault's German driver Nico Hulkenberg prepares for the second practice session of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on October 6, 2017

SUZUKA (JAPAN) (AFP) - 

Renault announced Friday that they have signed former Formula One technical chief Marcin Budkowski as their new executive director, sparking a row over possible data leaks.

The bombshell move, confirmed before the Japanese Grand Prix, has triggered an angry backlash from rivals as he knows intimate details of the top teams from his previous role, which he left last week.

Renault said in a statement that Budkowski would "oversee all the activities in the development and production of the chassis".

In his former position with the sport's ruling FIA, the Pole was responsible for liaising with teams to guarantee the compliance of their cars.

FIA officials had said Budkowski would serve three months of gardening leave before being released from his contract, but opposing teams fearful of potential skullduggery have blasted that time-frame as woefully short.

"There needs to be a proper element of garden leave before he takes all that knowledge to another team," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "Three months is just crazy, for the top position it's nuts!"

Rival team bosses held an emergency meeting at last week's Malaysia race before Renault confirmed their decision to hire Budkowski.

"It's not a great situation," continued Horner. "To find him going back to work within a competitive team in a three-month period is far too short and nowhere near industry standard.

He added: "Three weeks ago we were talking about our rear-suspension layout with him. Before that he was in a wind tunnel with another team. He sent out a technical directive the day before he left."

Horner expects the matter to be further discussed at the next strategy meeting between the top teams, the FIA and the sport's commercial rights holders.

Renault's F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul suggested a six-month wait as a compromise.

"When you recruit someone it is not a short-term opportunity," he said. "All the designs for next year's car are already are frozen," added Abiteboul, looking to calm frayed nerves.

"This is not something he is going to influence and we will start from scratch for 2019.

"There is a limited influence that someone like this can make to a car. We are taking this person because he has the skills, and experience of Formula One that is required for our project -- which is to become a top team by 2020."

Many were far from convinced.

"It's very critical that the teams have a strong degree of trust in their work with the FIA," said Williams technical head Paddy Lowe. "That underpins the ability of the FIA to police the sport."

But Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: "I think common sense will prevail. (FIA president) Jean Todt needs to step in. Renault will have a realistic assessment of what's morally and ethically correct and what's not."

by Alastair HIMMER

© 2017 AFP