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FIA set to remain hands-off over designer spats

Formula 1 is unlikely to get a contract recognition board to sort out future spats between teams over key technical staff.

The idea had been mooted following the controversial saga of Adrian Newey's on-off move from McLaren to Jaguar, but the sport's governing body, the FIA, appears content to let teams sort out their own commercial affairs.

An FIA-sanctioned contracts recognition board already exists to arbitrate on the movement of drivers, but Minardi boss Paul Stoddart called for a similar body for designers after his team's technical director Gustav Brunner was lured away by Toyota.

However, disputes over the movement of Grand Prix racing's star names are seen as far higher-profile than those involving the sport's technical big-hitters, and therefore deemed more likely to bring the sport into disrepute.

On Friday morning, McLaren design ace Newey was announced as Jaguar Racing's new technical chief starting from August 2002. But later that day, McLaren issued its own release saying the 42-year-old would stay at Woking for a further three years beyond his existing contract. Jaguar now says that after consulting legal sources, it believes it has a strong case for launching legal action against Newey and Jaguar.

The case has thrust F1's 'backroom boffins' into the spotlight, dominating the media's reporting of GP racing in the run-up to this weekend's Canadian GP. But FIA president Max Mosley has distanced the governing body from what is viewed as a wholly commercial affair.

"We have no position on this," said Mosley. "At the last Formula 1 constructors' meeting at the Austrian Grand Prix, the question of having a contract recognition board for senior employees, similar to the one that exists for drivers, was discussed. But nothing has been taken further."

Jaguar is yet to commit fully to legal action, but would almost certainly be unsuccessful if it tried to force Newey to honour any contract he signed with the Milton Keynes-based team. In situations such as Newey's, the law is very much on the side of the individual and Jaguar's best hope may be to seek an injunction preventing Newey from working with McLaren after August 2002, the end of his existing contract.

Ironically, the terms of Newey's new agreement with McLaren appear to imply that he will not be designing Formula 1 cars after August 2002 for the Woking squad anyway. McLaren says it will allow the Englishman to pursue other, unspecified projects under the banner of the organisation.

Jaguar's deal with Newey was believed to be for five years, starting in August 2002, with a salary package worth around £3.5 million per year.

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