MAY 23, 2003
Gascoyne and Toyota
There have been rumors for some time that Mike Gascoyne might become a target for Toyota's Formula 1 team but at the moment there is nothing to back up the stories - except logic.
Gascoyne was not at the Austrian Grand Prix and so suggestions that talks may have taken place there should be disregarded. Toyota has denied making any approach and Renault boss Flavio Briatore says that he is not going to let Gascoyne go until the end of his contract in 2005. But, as anyone in Formula 1 knows, none of this means very much.
If Gascoyne really wants to depart Renault - and there is no sign that he does - he would have to find a financial settlement with Renault (or let his new employer do it) and he would then have to sit out six months of what is known as "gardening leave" before he could start work elsewhere. There is little point in Renault trying to hold an engineer to a contract if the engineer does not want to stay. Success in F1 is about motivation and having a demotivated team is no good. What Briatore could do if the situation arose would be to try to convince Gascoyne to stay with a better offer than the teams approaching him and thus stop his departure, as McLaren did a couple of years ago with Adrian Newey when Jaguar Racing tried to hire him.
The big question is whether Gascoyne wants to leave Renault. Logically it is a good moment to do so because he has shown that his new car is exceptional and he is an ambitious fellow. Teams with large budgets and bad chassis must be looking for new talent and hiring Gascoyne and his team of engineers (and it should remembered it is a team of engineers who have built the car) may be an attractive option for someone like Toyota.
The element which makes it frustrating for Gascoyne is that he is now in his third year of a contract with Renault and he has built the best possible chassis - as he promised he would. The Renault engines however have not made the progress necessary and now the team is embarking on a new engine design which may be ready next year but which is unlikely to be fully developed and reliable until 2005 and is therefore unlikely to challenge for the World Championship until 2006, if at all. Gascoyne has never won a World Championship and that remains his goal so the idea of moving elsewhere may have its attractions. Toyota clearly has the ambition and the finance to go all the way...
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