Esteban Gutierrez, named as a Sauber driver for next season, accepts that sponsor backing has been "very important"
Yet Mexican says family support has been even more so
By Mike Wise at Interlagos. Last Updated: 06/12/12 3:05pm
For Esteban Gutierrez, reaching Formula 1 is not a dream: it's a project. That was how he described his career to date on Friday having been named as a Sauber driver for next season.
The young Mexican views his promotion as a milestone, another step along the path to delivery. Placed in front of the media in a cramped, chaotic paddock, it was certainly a businesslike performance from the 21-year-old.
"Now reaching Formula 1, it feels the beginning of a reality. I'm really pleased with it and I'm really thankful for all my team, my family especially. My parents, they were always very supportive and it was a family project reaching this position. It's very special because it's a very important step in my career," he said.
This is not to say that Gutierrez lacks charm. Far from it: by accounts an engaging, friendly personality, he has large, expressive brown eyes and speaks lucidly about his life and circumstances.
Both are looking very good indeed right now, yet his is no fairy story. It's a rise without life-affirming peaks or desperate troughs; more a steady, controlled ascent.
A former Formula BMW champion in Europe, Gutierrez won the inaugural GP3 title in 2010 before embarking upon two seasons in GP2. He finished third overall this season, winning three races for the Lotus GP team.
He has plenty of F1 testing experience already, having first sat behind the wheel of a Sauber when BMW were still involved in late 2009.
Named as reserve driver last season, Gutierrez finally got his chance at a race weekend in India last month, when illness prevented Sergio Perez from taking part in first practice.
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Perez and Gutierrez: Mexicans both, and their nationality is crucial to Friday's turn of events. A not unexpected outcome it has to be said, given Sauber's links to telecoms giant Telmex.
The partnership began in 2011 when Perez, who has been backed by Telmex who since boyhood, joined the team.
Gutierrez was seen as the natural replacement just as soon as Perez's move to McLaren was announced. That he has finally been confirmed was about as surprising as seeing two Red Bulls in the top three at the end of Friday practice.
The new recruit paid tribute to Telmex owner Carlos Slim but said the support he had received from his own family was more important.
"There are always different variables which are considered, different perspectives, but the support of the sponsors is very important. Especially from Carlos, who is not only supporting economically but is also passionate about racing," he said.
"As well, I would like to mention that the main thing, or the main credit, has to be given to my family. This is a family project; it's been a lot of effort from all of my brothers, my sister and especially my parents; my father, because there was an investment from the family."
The "variables" Gutierrez alluded to can be boiled down to talent and money. The decision to appoint him in place of Kamui Kobayashi - who has an ample amount of the former but none of the latter - has once again highlighted the role so-called 'pay drivers' have in Formula 1.
Kobayashi out, Gutierrez in
Monisha Kaltenborn has been at pains to stress that the decision is based on talent as well as money - if not more so the former, according to the Team Principal.
It's been a sensitive subject for some teams. Hopefully, the fact that Sauber started firing up their cars' engines, drowning out Gutierrez's voice as he fended questions on the subject, was something not lost on those present.
There was, refreshingly, a good dose of honesty from him when asked about the step up.
"I don't know if I'm ready yet. I think when I'm living the position of a Formula 1 driver next season then I'm going to know if I'm ready or not," he responded.
Yet, when asked to describe his emotions upon hearing of the decision, Gutierrez reverted once more to the business matter-of-fact.
He added: "There has always been a plan with the team. I have been related with the team, which has always helped me a lot to develop myself in a very progressive way.
"From that time, when I joined, there was already a plan. Every year there were certainly different options, and these options have been followed.
"It'll make me even stronger, which is why I'm going to take it in the most calm way with a cold head; to be able to look into the future in the best way."