SEPTEMBER 12, 2003
The Gascoyne situation
The situation of Mike Gascoyne and Renault remains one of the mysteries of current Formula 1. Gascoyne is the technical director of Renault Sport but it is believed that earlier this year he received a huge offer to move to Panasonic Toyota Racing, despite the fact that he has still has two years to run on his Renault contract.
The law in such matters favors the employee over the employer. Under European law, as laid down in the Treaty of Rome, no-one can be forced to work somewhere where they do not wish to work and companies are not allowed to restrict the movement of employees, even if there is a contract. An employer is allowed to insist that an employee does not move to a competitor but, in this case, the employer must continue to pay the salary of an employee even if they are not working. This does not make a great deal of financial sense and, in the case of engineers in the fast-moving world of Formula 1 technology, there is a limit of six months which has been established as the longest period an employee can be left on "gardening leave" because if they are out of action any longer it will affect their ability to do the job properly.
In general, most cases in F1 have not gone to court and the parties involved have negotiated deals by which the engineers take six months of what has been called "gardening leave" during which they are paid by the team they are leaving. If the team stops paying the engineer he is free to leave straight away.
Legal action is slow and expensive.
Since the first whispers of the story broke, Gascoyne has been to only a couple of races and has refused to make any comment at all on his movements. Toyota is also saying nothing. Renault says that he is staying. But the rumors persist that Gascoyne will move.
With the law stacked in favor of the engineers, it is in the interest of a team to delay things as much as possible and then ensure that the gardening leave is as long as possible. Things are now becoming critical as Toyota will want Gascoyne to start work on the 2005 car in March or April next year and if one counts back from there, the necessary gardening leave must begin by the end of this month.
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