Gutierrez and Massa handed grid penalties

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Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa have both been handed three place grid penalties for blocking during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix today.

Gutierrez was found to have compromised Kimi Raikkonen’s flying lap during Q1, and although the Finn still managed to make it into Q2 with ease, the Sauber driver is thought to have been able to avoid the Lotus on track. This marks Gutierrez’s third grid penalty in five races, following a gearbox change in Australia and a penalty in Bahrain for causing an incident at the Chinese Grand Prix.

For Massa, this penalty sees him drop down to P9 on the grid, making his job even harder in the race tomorrow. The Brazilian driver held up Mark Webber during the second qualifying session, provoking a muffled radio response from the Red Bull driver protesting the move.

The stewards were expected to have a busy evening ahead of them following the session, and these penalties are hard to dispute following the TV footage made available. Escaping a penalty is Williams, with one of its drivers coming under fire from Jenson Button during Q1.

Following Massa’s penalty, Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber and Sergio Perez will all move on place up on the grid, leaving Massa on the 5th row alongside Paul di Resta. Gutierrez will drop to P19 on the grid, behind Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado, and Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde who will be delighted to start 18th tomorrow.

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.