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Formula E: Mexico City ePrix preview

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The ABB FIA Formula E Championship heads to Mexico City this weekend for Round 5 of the 2017-18 campaign. The current season, the fourth of the Formula E championship, has seen three different winners – Sam Bird, Felix Rosenqvist, and Jean-Éric Vergne – in four races, with Vergne currently leading the championship standings on 71 points, five ahead of Rosenqvist.

Below are noteworthy storylines heading into Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix.

  • Vergne’s victory at the last race, in Santiago, Chile, a 1-2 for Techeetah Formula E Team, with teammate André Lotterer finishing second after the two engaged in a hard-fought battle for the win. It was also the first 1-2 for any team in Formula E history.
  • Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi, the defending Formula E champion, enters Mexico City in somewhat of a slump, with a best finish of 14th in the 2017-18 season and with two consecutive DNFs to his name. However, di Grassi is also the defending Mexico City winner, so this weekend presents a strong opportunity for him to right the ship.
  • Ten points separate championship leader Vergne from third-place Sam Bird. Fourth place Sébastien Buemi sits on 37 points, 24 behind Bird, meaning the early-season title picture looks to be a three-man fight. However, with seven rounds remaining, including Saturday’s Mexico City event, there remains plenty of time for a driver outside of the Top 3 to make a championship run.
  • The Teams’ Championship is also a close fight at the front, with Techeetah leading the way on 89 points, but only two markers ahead of Mahindra Racing. DS Virgin Racing sits in third, on 69 points.
  • While Formula E events are held on city streets, the Mexico City event does feature a permanent racing facility, utilizing parts of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, including the Peraltada, to make up the 17-turn track.
  • DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn is slated to receive a 10-spot grid penalty for taking a new gearbox after suffering a failure at the Santiago ePrix.

Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix rolls off at 4:30 p.m. EST.


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.