Sauber have confirmed that Esteban Gutierrez will stay at the team for the 2014 season.
In a late announcement on Saturday, the Sauber team announced the 22-year-old Mexican will partner up with German driver Adrian Sutil for next season. The Swiss teams sponsorship deal with Mexican telecommunications company Telmex will also continue next year.
Despite Gutierrez’s only points of the season coming from his seventh place at the Japanese Grand Prix, Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn said the rookie deserves another chance: “Last season he experienced first-hand how hard it can be for a rookie to step into Formula 1.
“Nevertheless, throughout the season he improved significantly in qualifying as well as in the races and finished the season as the best rookie in the drivers’ championship.
“Often the results didn’t fully reflect his performances. I am confident Esteban will be able to use his experiences to gain results.”
Gutierrez said: “It was a steep learning curve last season, but by working closely with the team I was able to improve continuously. It will be my fourth year with the team, the second as a racing driver, and I feel comfortable in taking the next step.”
The news comes after a couple of week of speculation with regards to Gutierrez’s future. The young Mexican rookie had been looking around the Caterham and Marussia team factory in early December.
Sauber also announced that 18-year-old Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will become a test driver for the team, as they look to develop his skills to become a future F1 driver. Given his lack of experience in top machinery, the Sauber deemed it too much of a risk to throw the Russian straight in at the deep end.
Swiss newspapers have suggested that Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez could be off to the Caterham team after being seen at the factory near Witney in Oxfordshire.
‘Blick’ and ‘Neue Zercher Zeitung’ have both reported that the 22 year old was seen at the Caterham base on Wednesday. It comes a few days after German driver Nico Hulkenburg left the Swiss team to join Force India.
Gutierrez was widely expected to remain with Sauber for the next season, however their recent financial issues may force them to opt for 18 year old Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who is favoured by Sauber’s Russian investors. It is thought that Force India driver Adrian Sutil could well end up with a seat at the Hinwil based team, forcing Gutierrez out the exit door.
Caterham team boss Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport that the aim would be to have a balanced driver pairing for next season: “A combination of experience and younger blood is something that will make sense. At Caterham, we are committed to young people, to young talent. So I think that will stay.”
At last months Brazilian Grand Prix Gutierrez confirmed he was unsure about keeping his seat at Sauber, he said: “We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
“Obviously we have been looking to different options, even if my idea is to continue with Sauber, because we have been working on a good relationship for a long time.”
Gutierrez, like compatriot Sergio Perez, is supported by the Mexican telecommunications company Telmex. This financial backing may play a part in deciding whether this years rookie could end up at Caterham for the 2014 season.
Nico Hulkenberg has signed a ‘multi-year’ contract to drive with Force India from the 2014 season.
The German driver had an option to sign for the Silverstone-based team which ran out last Sunday, an option he and his manager decided to take up.
He is familiar with the team, having spent the 2011 season with them as a third driver before being promoted to a full time role in 2012. He made a switch to Sauber last year hoping for more podiums and a chance at getting a Ferrari drive alongside Fernando Alonso, however neither occurred and he finds himself back at Force India.
Team Principal Vijay Mallya said: “I’m delighted to see Nico back with Sahara Force India. When he drove for us in 2012, it became clear Nico was an exceptional talent and he has continued to impress everyone in the paddock with his strong performances this season. Having Nico in our line-up is a real statement of intent and a huge boost for everyone associated with the team. We have high hopes and expectations for 2014 and by signing Nico we have put ourselves in the best position to achieve those objectives and enjoy what could be our most competitive season yet.”
New driver Nico Hülkenberg said: “I am happy to come back to Sahara Force India. The team is aiming high for next year and I believe that the experience I have gained over the years will help us achieve those goals. I genuinely believe we can have a competitive package in 2014. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about the Mercedes engine as well, so I think there is a lot to be excited about for next year. I know this team and I can see their determination; it’s a great bunch of people and we all share the same hunger for success.”
It is thought that Mexican Sergio Perez will be announced as his team mate before the new year. Perez will bring with him €15m in sponsorship money from Mexican telecommunications group Telmex.
This new line up will of course mean that current drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta will no longer be with the team. The former is expected to sign with Sauber and it is not yet known where Di Resta will end up, with Indy Car racing in America the most likely option.
Rumours circulating in Melbourne that the Sauber F1 team will be put up for sale during this season. The news is likely to be linked with the announcement on Thursday that Mclaren will not renew their contract with Vodafone and are expected to announce Telmex, a major backer of the Sauber F1 team, as their title partner.
Peter Sauber has been looking for a way to hand over the reins of the team since he re-bought it back from BMW in 2010. He has himself stepped down as Team Principal in 2012, giving the position to Monisha Kaltenborn.
There may be an interest from Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, after they announced a tie-up between the F1 and football teams at the Spanish Grand Prix last year. The Russian billionaire, does want to expose the Chelsea brand much more further afield and could look to purchasing the F1 team outright, given its pristine facilites in Hinwil, Switzerland.
Potential bids are also expected to arise from a Middle Eastern or Qatari based consortium.
Expect more rumours over the coming weeks…