Ferrari boss takes a provocative stance

A 10 year old Ferrari fan shows his cap with miniatures of Ferrari's formula one car just after getting an autograph of his favourite driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, after the qualifying session of the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit October 4, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Alan Baldwin BARCELONA (Reuters) - Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene has taken a provocative stance, before the Formula One season has even started, in response to rumors about a clampdown on access passes for teams. Arrivabene, a marketing man who was appointed in November, sat with Ferrari's Mexican reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez and sporting director Massimo Rivola among spectators during testing in Barcelona. "I heard that in Australia there will be more restrictions in terms of passes and I think this is not acceptable," he told reporters on Sunday, the final day of testing before the racing starts in Melbourne on March 15. "So I said to the guys 'OK, if we are going to have a situation where the paddock is going to be empty, it's better if we start training to go to the people and we sit in the grandstands'." "I have to say it was a good experience because the people were very well-educated, we were with our headphones following the test. They were respectful, asking for pictures. It was a good experience and I hope to have others like this." The paddock, where teams have their lavish hospitality units and race engineers pore over data while journalists rub shoulders with mechanics and VIPs, is the sport's closely-guarded inner sanctum. Access to the fenced-off enclosure is by electronic pass, issued by commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management. "It was a kind of provocation but I love to do this kind of provocation," said Arrivabene. "I said we need to take Formula One close to the people. We were sitting in the middle of the people. And I don't like to see now and in the future the paddock empty, it's not the right way." Arrivabene, whose team have one of the biggest budgets in the sport, said he had wanted to make a statement. "Nothing is decided yet but we have certain communication that the number of passes is going to be reduced. Normally when you have certain rumors in Formula One, they become reality. So I sit in the stands before it is becoming reality," he declared. "Exclusivity doesn't mean having an empty paddock. This is my clear statement. "I don't play golf but I watch it on television sometimes and it's one of the most exclusive sports. But when they play, you have thousands of people following the players. And this is not working against exclusivity of the sport." (Editing by John O'Brien)