Ferrari could reach a compromise with Red Bull that would see Laurent Mekies released to join junior team AlphaTauri ahead of schedule, it has been claimed.
AlphaTauri sent shockwaves through the Formula 1 paddock ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix by announcing Mekies would join as team principal, replacing long-serving boss Franz Tost.
Although it was confirmed Tost would step down at the end of the current season having spearheaded the team since the former Minardi operation was rebranded as Toro Rosso in 2006, the specific date of Mekies’ arrival was left hanging in the air with the current Ferrari assistant team principal and racing director under a long-term contract at Maranello.
Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur expressed his disappointment with the timing of AlphaTauri’s announcement in Baku, but it has emerged that there is room for compromise between the two parties.
As reported by Autosport, a deal could be reached that would see Mekies free to join AlphaTauri with Ferrari in return securing the early release of staff recently hired from Red Bull.
Under the new leadership of Vasseur, who replaced Mattia Binotto as team boss last winter, Ferrari are known to have launched an aggressive recruitment drive in recent months, luring aerodynamicists from rival teams including Red Bull.
However, with contracts in F1 subjected to extended periods of gardening leave designed to prevent the transfer of intimate secrets from team to team, Ferrari are faced with a long wait before those new hires can begin.
Yet in the event of a deal with Red Bull, the obligation of a period of gardening leave could be reduced or waived entirely with Mekies free to head in the opposite direction.
Per the same source, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff – a long-term ally of Vasseur – warned the new Ferrari boss would not be afraid of being assertive in attempts to get what he wants.
“Fred needs to put his own team in place and take the right decisions,” he said.
“You can’t stop a traveller.
“That was always my philosophy, that if somebody wants to go and sees another opportunity, let him go and wish him all the best.
“Fred is an out-and-out racer and knows exactly what he wants.
“I think he’s okay with the situation, but obviously, the way it was communicated [by AlphaTauri] was a bit abrupt.
“That’s why Fred’s is going to do the best for Ferrari.
“And if that means taking the elbows out, then that is good.”
The apparent Red Bull exodus will reportedly not include aero chief Enrico Balbo and technical director Pierre Wache, with Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport claiming both have turned down a move to Ferrari.
The news of Ferrari’s raid of Red Bull staff comes after chief technical officer Adrian Newey – strongly linked with a move to the Scuderia in 2014 – agreed a contract extension with the reigning Constructors’ Champions.
Appearing to confirm the agreement, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko told German publication Auto Bild of his wish that the new contract will see 64-year-old Newey commit to the team for the remainder of his F1 career.