Motor racing-Maldonado clears the air with Gutierrez

SHANGHAI, April 17 Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:15am EDT

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SHANGHAI, April 17 (Reuters) - Lotus Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado has cleared the air with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez after picking up a grid penalty for sending the Mexican flying at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Venezuelan refused to take the blame for the incident, however, and told reporters in China on Thursday that the spectacular flip had been a normal racing incident.

Maldonado, who has made numerous trips to see the stewards in the past for his aggressive driving, was hit with a 10-second stop-and-go during the race and will lose five places on the starting grid for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

"I think talking with him it was a normal race contact, that's it," said the Venezuelan on a damp and grey afternoon at the Shanghai Circuit.

"He (Gutierrez) said 'I didn't see you' because -- it's difficult to say -- because the image is not that clear depending on which perspective you see.

"But he was completely out of the line and then at the exit of the corner he started to come on the line."

Gutierrez was turning into the tight first corner of the Sakhir circuit when Maldonado, who was exiting the pits, speared into the side of the Sauber.

The contact flipped Gutierrez's car into the air and caused it to roll, prompting an exclamation of surprise over the radio from the startled Mexican.

However Maldonado, who was also handed three penalty points on his superlicence, said the incident was not as spectacular as it appeared and suggested stewards needed to be more flexible when handing out sanctions.

"We need to avoid the incident but at the same time you cannot race," he said.

"You need to only stay on track and wait for problems of the others because if you attack and your manoeuvre is maybe not that clear, or maybe the guy is defending the place and you have a gamble or fighting for the place, you can be penalised.

"So maybe they need to be slightly more flexible. That's my opinion." (Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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