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Renault may extend Budkowski gardening leave to appease F1 rivals

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Renault may wait an additional three months before allowing ex-FIA technical chief Marcin Budkowski to join its Formula 1 operation in a bid to appease rival teams left unhappy by the move.

Budkowski, a point of reference for all teams with technical queries about their cars, tendered his resignation with the FIA last week ahead of a move to Renault that was announced on Friday.

As Budkowski is only required to take three months of gardening leave, F1 team bosses were left fuming that someone privy to information about their cars could take their knowledge to a rival not long after leaving another role.

As a result, Renault is currently in talks with the FIA about extending Budkowski’s gardening leave by an additional three months, meaning he would not join until April at the earliest.

“There has been lots of talk about [the length of gardening leave], not from us. We always made it clear that we would not want to be aggressive in relation to that,” Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul said.

“From a contractual perspective, he could be available from early next year, but we have had a constructive discussion with the FIA and I believe that we are close to reaching an agreement on a start date that would I say make everyone comfortable.

“I think that is a date of early April, which is basically twice his gardening leave provision has been discussed, has been invoked.

“Nothing has been confirmed yet but that is something we are completely prepared to entertain as far as we are concerned.”

Abiteboul also expressed his doubt that Budkowski could have much of an influence on its plans in the near-future, making any information he has from teams about their 2018 cars redundant.

“When you recruit someone, it is not a short-term opportunity. All the designs of next year’s car are already frozen,” Abiteboul said.

“We are in the process of manufacturing moulds, suspension geometry, all of that is already decided since months. It is not something that is going to influence, and things will again start from scratch for 2019.

“There is limited influence someone like that can make to a car, and because of the obsolescence of information in Formula 1, it’s not going to make a huge difference.

“We are taking that person because he has the skills, he has the experience of Formula 1 this is required for our programme and our project, which is to become a top team by 2020 – full stop.

“It’s not for what he knows today.”

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.