Mid-Season Review: Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez has certainly not enjoyed a smooth start to his second season in Formula One. Much like Caterham, Sauber have struggled to extract performance from their car, with Esteban highlighting that the team are still unclear as to the fundamental cause of their speed deficiencies. While the team seem to be slowly climbing back towards the midfield, they are yet to score points. Can Esteban be the man to drive the team forward in the next eight races, or will the Mexican be in danger of losing his seat come November?

Season So Far…

Australian Grand Prix
12th
Malaysian Grand Prix
Retired
Bahrain Grand Prix
Retired
Chinese Grand Prix
16th
Spanish Grand Prix
16th
Monaco Grand Prix
Retired
Canadian Grand Prix
14th
Austrian Grand Prix
19th
British Grand Prix
Retired
German Grand Prix
14th
Hungarian Grand Prix
Retired

Lacking Machinery

Gutierrez’s time in Formula One was always going to be challenging. With sponsors Telmex providing significant funding towards his seat, he is one of the most notable pay drivers. Consequently, the need for impressive results becomes even more crucial in order to cement his position in the sport, proving that he has the talent worthy of a seat.
Unfortunately, Esteban has not developed following his first season. The Mexican may have started his 2013 campaign slowly, but in the final rounds of the season he demonstrated his talents, with an excellent drive to seventh place in Japan seeming like a watershed moment. However, his 2014 campaign has started much like 2013, which is decidedly disappointing considering that this is now his second season in Formula One. While it is easy to be highly critical, it is important to bare in mind that Sauber were a much stronger outfit twelve months ago than they are now. Nico Hulkenberg had scored seven points for the team at this stage last season and while this is a far-cry from their superb 2012 campaign, it still demonstrates that the car was a better package – even if Nico was outperforming the machinery.

Crash Course

The most concerning aspect of Esteban’s season so far has been the various accidents that he has found himself at the heart of. Last season, he only retired from a race on one occasion due to an avoidable accident, (trivia moment incoming) and that was in China when he misjudged braking for the hairpin on lap one and slammed into the back of Adrian Sutil. In Canada, his crash at the pit exit came after the 90% classification yard-stick. 
However, Esteban has suffered far more scuffles so far this season as oppose to last season as a whole. Lets start at Bahrain, and the first on-track altercation with Pastor Maldonado. This particular incident was 100% Pastor’s fault and so can be ignored in this instance. The next retirement came in Monaco. On the exit of Rascasse, Esteban clipped the inside barrier with his right rear tyre, in what was a decidedly rookie move. The next accident came at Silverstone, when the Mexican met Maldonado once again. On this occasion, the accident was entirely his fault, as he made an ambitious maneuver down the inside of the Lotus at Vale. Ironically, Gutierrez almost returned the ‘flipping’ compliment to Maldonado, but unlike at Bahrain, the car that took to the air fortunately landed on its feet. Regardless, it was a reckless maneuver and one which should be left in junior formula.
In addition to these in-race accidents, Esteban has also made costly mistakes during Saturday’s, with the most notable coming during FP3 at Canada. After sliding into the barriers at turn four, the Mexican was out of qualifying as repairs could not be completed in time for the session. A crash during the wet qualifying at Silverstone was yet another blot on Gutierrez’s copy book. 
Perhaps the number of incidents is a direct result of car performance. It is possible that Esteban is making the age old mistake of trying too hard to string good performances together and as a result, over-driving. Keeping clear of contact has to be one of his primary aims in the second half of the season.

Getting To Mexico

News that the Mexican Grand Prix will feature on the 2015 calender is just the motivation that Gutierrez needs. In a season which appears to be fast becoming a total write-off for Sauber as a team, it would be easy to loose focus. However, with Mexico on the calender next season, Esteban will want to impress his employers and retain his seat. In all honesty it looks likely that Gutierrez will be a Sauber driver in 2015, with Adrian Sutil seemingly under increasing pressure with Giedo Van Der Garde waiting in the wings to replace him. However, that is a story for Sutil’s Mid-Season Review.

As For The Rating…                   

Esteban Gutierrez’s 2014 campaign so far warrants 4/10
The Mexican has noticeably struggled so far this season. Over-driving is an easy trap to fall into and has made legends of the sport look average on occasions. While the car has been nowhere near as good as the Sauber C31 or even last years C32, I cannot help but feel that if Nico Hulkenberg had been in the car, points would have been scored. The Monaco Grand Prix was both Esteban and Adrian’s golden opportunity to snatch said points, but neither managed to take the chequered flag to capitalize on what was a crazy afternoon. This is something that Esteban in particular will need to address in the second half of the campaign.
Analysis of Adrian Sutil’s season so far will be posted later this afternoon. 
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