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Techeetah claims Gutierrez breached contract by quitting Formula E

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BERLIN, Germany – The Techeetah Formula E team has accused Esteban Gutierrez of breaching his contract after quitting the all-electric championship in order to take up a drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing.

After losing his drive in Formula 1 with Haas at the end of last year, Gutierrez announced in January that he would be entering Formula E, making his debut with Techeetah in Mexico City at the beginning of April.

The Mexican took part in just three Formula E races before departing to take up a seat in IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing, replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 Honda for the Detroit race last weekend.

Gutierrez has not been formally confirmed for the rest of the IndyCar season and will miss this weekend’s race in Texas as he has not been able to complete an oval test, but is expected to take the seat until Bourdais returns.

There was some confusion upon arrival in Berlin as Gutierrez’s replacement, Stephane Sarrazin, did not receive approval to race for Techeetah from the stewards until Friday afternoon.

Formula E teams are required to nominate their drivers two weeks in advance of a race, putting Techeetah and Venturi – Sarrazin’s former team – in breach of this regulation.

Techeetah argued that the breach was “a result of an alleged breach of contract between the driver and the competitor,” which the stewards accepted.

“It was reported to the Stewards that the nominated driver Mr. Esteban Gutierrez breached his contract with the competitor Techeetah and decided to compete in another series which conflicted with Formula E Championship,” a stewards note reads.

“The stewards in accordance with ISC 12.2.6 will refer this alleged breach of contract to the FIA International Tribunal.”

When approached by NBC Sports, Techeetah declined to comment on the matter.

Venturi has been hit with a €5,000 fine for also breaching the same regulation by drafting in Tom Dillmann to replace Sarrazin for the remainder of the season.

Sarrazin takes Gutierrez’s Techeetah Formula E seat

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Esteban Gutierrez looks poised to see out the remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series season with Dale Coyne Racing after the Techeetah Formula E team signed Stephane Sarrazin to his seat.

Gutierrez moved into Formula E after losing his Formula 1 drive at the end of last year, racing in Mexico City, Monaco and Paris with Techeetah.

The Mexican will make his IndyCar debut in Detroit this weekend with Dale Coyne Racing in place of the injured Sebastien Bourdais, who is out of action until at least the season finale at Sonoma on September 17.

Team owner Dale Coyne confirmed on Friday that he planned for Gutierrez to see out the season despite three Formula E schedule clashes in the next two months.

On Saturday, Sarrazin was confirmed to be leaving Venturi for the remainder of the Formula E campaign, joining Techeetah in place of Gutierrez.

Venturi will replace Sarrazin with Tom Dillmann, who made his Formula E debut in Paris last month in place of Maro Engel, who was tied up with DTM duties.

“A positive solution for all those involved,” Venturi team principal Gildo Pallanca Pastor said. “With his experience, Stephane will be embraced by Techeetah and at the same time, the season will offer Tom the chance of gathering further important experiences with Venturi.

“This means that all the three Venturi joint drivers, Maro Engel, Stephane Sarrazin and Tom Dillmann will contest the coming championship rounds in Berlin, New York and Montreal.”

As noted by my colleague Tony DiZinno, this was the penultimate hurdle for Gutierrez to clear if he wants to enter the remaining races on the IndyCar calendar, with the final task being an oval test ahead of next weekend’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Gutierrez ‘definitely not done’ with F1, wants full-time race program

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MONACO – Esteban Gutierrez says he is “definitely not done” with Formula 1 despite making the move into Formula E after losing his seat with Haas at the end of the 2016 season.

Gutierrez raced for Sauber through 2013 and 2014 before stepping back into a reserve role with Ferrari, which ultimately led to a move to the start-up Haas team for 2016 in a race seat.

While teammate Romain Grosjean was able to score a number of points finishes, Gutierrez failed to take a single top-10 result through 21 races for the team, leading to his dismissal at the end of the season.

Gutierrez has since moved into Formula E with the Techeetah team, but the Mexican remains determined to return to F1 in a full-time seat seat in the future.

“Definitely I’m not done [with F1]. I’ve taken this step which to me was very important to do something proper,” Gutierrez told NBC Sports in Monaco.

“I had opportunity to be there as a third driver, but I wanted to focus on a racing program. Step by step, you know achieving the things that I want to achieve.

“I feel confident, I’ve been preparing a lot physically. I made quite a big step on that side, preparing for the races here in Formula E, driving a different car.

“It’s anyway a great experience to have.”

When asked if he’d had a fair shot in F1 yet, Gutierrez said that he had not been able to fully display his talent through his three seasons on the grid.

“I wouldn’t say it was not fair, but it was not really the chance to show my speed,” Gutierrez said.

“I think there are things that happen in life for a reason, and I’m going to keep pushing. I’m very motivated and looking forward to what’s in the future.

“I’m not really thinking about what’s in the past. The past just gives you lessons, whatever the situation was, it’s always good to learn.

“I take that as experience. I think it will be good.”

Outside of F1, Gutierrez admitted that he finds both IndyCar and the FIA World Endurance Championship interesting racing options, but doubts he’ll move into the latter until much later in his career.

“I think both are very interesting. Probably in my case, IndyCar is more attractive. I think WEC is still something I think of as in the future.

“I’m still quite young, so there’s much more to learn and much more to do. So IndyCar is quite attractive. Let’s see what all of the different options are.”

Esteban Gutierrez confirmed at Techeetah Formula E

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Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez’s team of choice has been confirmed for the balance of the FIA Formula E Championship third season. He’ll run with the Techeetah team, having been announced there today. Gutierrez joins FE after three race seasons and one reserve season in F1, having most recently competed with Haas F1 Team last year in its debut year.

Gutierrez replaces Ma Qing Hua in the active race lineup alongside Jean-Eric Vergne starting from the Mexico City ePrix to be held on April 1, Ma having been relegated to third driver.

“I am very grateful to join Techeetah, a team with real competitiveness,” Gutierrez said in a release. “After four years of incredible experience in F1, I’m now taking a step forward in the future of motorsports. I am especially excited about my debut race in Mexico City. Hopefully I can put on a good show for the passionate home fans.”

Managing director Ivan Yim added, “We are delighted to welcome Esteban to Techeetah. We will have Esteban as prepared as possible for his home race. With the passionate Mexican fans awaiting in the stadium section, the Techeetah team is highly motivated with its new driver lineup.”

Timing mix up costs Vergne in Marrakesh FE qualifying

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Jean-Eric Vergne was left frustrated after a timing mix-up by his Techeetah Formula E team cost him a shot at pole position in qualifying for the Marrakesh ePrix on Saturday.

Vergne carried an impressive pace through practice before topping the group stage of qualifying, securing himself the final run slot in Super Pole.

However, the Techeetah team released the Frenchman from his pit box too late, meaning he was not allowed to exit the pit lane and take to the track to compelte a qualifying lap.

As a result, Vergne will start fifth in Marrakesh, with Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist securing pole.

Techeetah informed NBC Sports that a “procedural error” caused the mix-up, with Vergne making his frustration clear after the session.

“I said: ‘Are you sure I don’t need to go?’ with one minute to go, and they said ‘No, no, you have to wait’,” Vergne explained.

“I thought they know what they are doing. There are a lot of engineers and people who know the rules behind the garage. And apparently it was wrong.

“Unless they changed the rule overnight, which I don’t think they did, there’s been a huge mistake.”

Vergne and Techeetah impressed throughout pre-season testing, with their package showing pace comparable to that of the pace-setting Renault e.dams squad, giving the ex-Toro Rosso Formula 1 racer lots of hope heading into the race.

“We have an amazing car this weekend,” Vergne said.

“I think it’s a shame I just lost three points, but I can definitely win the race starting fifth.

“It’s not the end of the world.”

Vergne will gain a place on the grid following a technical infringement for Sebastien Buemi, causing the Swiss racer to fall from second to seventh.