Red Bull Racing and McLaren are engaged in a tug-of-war over the services of the former’s chief aerodynamicist, Peter Prodromou, whom McLaren announced had been signed to its technical line-up as part of a succession of to-be-announced hirings ahead of the team reuniting with Honda.
McLaren’s announcement came during the Japanese Grand Prix, with the team’s managing director, Jonathan Neale, loudly trumpeting that it has poached a key member of Red Bull Racing’s technical team.
“We are really excited about [Peter] joining the team,” Neale said during the Japanese Grand Prix.
“It is not a one-off thing, in that we have made some moves during the course of this year. There are also some other things that we are doing to strengthen our team, so it is a series of moves as we head to 2015 with Honda to make sure this team stays at the forefront of Formula 1 and is set for winning ways.”
The announcement prompted a quick response from Red Bull Racing, which insisted that Prodromou’s contract – which expires at the end of the 2014 season – would be enforced.
“Peter is a valued member of the team, and he is making a valuable contribution,” Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner told Sporting Life.
“The content of any contract obviously is confidential, but the duration of his contract runs for quite a while yet.
“We are certainly in no rush to release him early and he will be with the team until the end of his existing agreement.”
Publically, McLaren has admitted that it will have to respect Prodromou’s current contract before he comes on board.
“He has a contract and he will be working for us in the future. But currently he is employed by Red Bull, we have to respect that, so that is why we are not talking about time frames or anything,” McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh conceded.
In truth, while the Milton Keynes squad may want to trumpet about having Prodromou on-contract until the end of 2014, its ability to enforce it is really limited.
No leading F1 technical figure can be kept off-market for anything more than six months, as it makes them virtually unemployable in the sport.
A precedent was set as long as 15 years ago when Red Bull Racing’s current technical head, the acclaimed designer Adrian Newey, applied to the courts for an early release from his contract with Williams in order to join McLaren at the end of the 1996 season.