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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.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.