F1 Winter Break
Gutierrez confirmed at Sauber, Pic makes Caterham move
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Nov 2012   |  12:19 pm GMT  |  88 comments

On Friday morning in Brazil two more seats on the F1 grid for 2013 were resolved as Sauber confirmed the news which Sergio Perez let slip, that fellow Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, 21, would drive alongside Nico Hulkenberg.

This leaves Kamui Kobayashi out on a limb.

Meanwhile Caterham has hired 22 year old Charles Pic from Marussia F1 Team. The Frenchman has done a good job this year up against Timo Glock and also comes with a budget and strong French support. As Caterham strengthens its links with Renault, developing road cars and closer ties, Pic fits well in the picture.

Sauber also announced Robin Frijns as test and development driver. He and Gutierrez impressed during the recent Young Guns test at Abu Dhabi.

The feeling in the paddock is that Giedo van der Garde will get the second Caterham seat and Max Chilton will replace Pic at Marussia.

This leaves the second Force India seat alongside Paul di Resta as the focus of interest. Jaime Alguersuari is the obvious choice, having done thousands of kilometres of Pirelli tyre development work for 2013, but Adrian Sutil has forced himself into the reckoning. The German was dropped at the end of 2011 after his conviction for wounding Lotus F1’s Eric Lux in a nightclub brawl in Shanghai.

Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn said, “Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely,” said Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn. “In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step. Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap. We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez.”

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Although I like the fact that we might have 2 fellow Dutchmen in formula 1 next year, I feel that Frijns has more potential to become a long term addition to the formula 1 field, just like Jos Verstappen once was.

Van der Garde is a bit too old and thus less interesting for other/better teams.


Why would anyone aspire to a future as utterly lacklustre as Jos Verstappen's career was? He was the epitome of the journeyman driver for goodness sake.


Actually Jos 'the Boss' Verstappen was quite good. Unfortunately he suffered heavy crashes and pit lane fires repeatedly.


Sutil?? Really??


I second that. Alguersuari or Kobayashi or even Kovalainen would be far better choices.


sad to see two good drivers in Heiki and Kamui being left out in the open....


Sad to see Kamui out, don't feel at all sorry to see Heikki out.


Maybe this will encourage Honda to return to F1 and support a Japanese driver. It would be nice to see both a U.S. team and a Honda or Japanese team. Toyota provides Nascar engines. No reason exsists for them to not provide F1 engines.


To make its NASCAR engine Toyota simply modify the engine from the Tundra. To supply F1 engines they would need to develope a whole new motor with turbo technology they havent used since th supra! Would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and that is why thy got out of F1 in the first place.


Toyotas NASCAR engine was all new because Toyota had never built a pushrods engine.


Any news on what's happening to Heikki and Vitaly? Heikki certainly deserves a seat somewhere and I would like to see Vitaly on the grid. I heard senna is rumoured to get the other Caterham drive as well, but I really hope that this isn't true!


Speculation that Heikki may stay with the team if they can get back up to 10th in constructors. Otherwise, Force India or a testing role I guess.

If Caterham end up 11th then Petrov and Senna are battling van der Garde for the 2nd seat there, and financial muscle will probably play a role.


A real shame if Kovalainen is dropped, he must feel like he's being stabbed in the back big time. I've lost a great deal of respect for Caterham due to the way they've been dealing with their drivers who have believed the teams promises of a better car, always "next season" of course. Then, after implying the contract will be renewed, drop them when no other drives are available anymore. Applies both to Heikki and to Jarno earlier. Can't really keep on rooting for a team like that.


@Antti Totally agree.

Caterham have been my favourite team for the past two years and such a shame that they are loosing the driver who attracted me to the team.

In terms of Sauber, Estaban brings in so much money from sponsors that it must have been the deal clincher, which is a massive shame as it leaves Kobayashi without a drive. Such a shame to see such a likeable figure go. At least we will be left with the good memories of the crowd jumping to their feet and chanting "KAMUI" at the end of the Japanese GP.


Heikki spent the first half of the season spouting on about how he might consider moving 'up the grid' to another team, and that his future with Caterham was by no means certain. So he may well have made his own bed...


Just remember that he didn't defend the 10th place WCC for the team. And the prize difference, is his contract difference.


Hey, Antti--

I understand how you feel....

But if Finland expects every young Finn driving an open-wheel racer, in the lower formulae to make it to F1 (or in Kovalainen's case, keep his race seat at Caterham) well, it just seems to me that the monied folks in that country are going to have to dig deep into their bank vaults and come up with big-time bank notes.

Things do seem to be pointing towards Bottas securing the 2nd Williams seat. Although, I'm not ready to bet on it, without Valteri showing up at Team headquarters riding shotgun in a Brink's armored truck! However, I don't ever recall a Finnish F1 driver wearing a lot of badges on his overalls bearing the names of Finnish firms.

That said, my memory goes back to Rosberg Sr (alias Keke) who was first sponsored in the late 70's, and brought into Grand Prix racing, by Teddy Yip of Hong Kong. Following that, Walter Wolf Racing took him on without any noticeable Finnish support, and later Copersucar of Brazil, by way of the Fittipaldi Brothers....


That's really bad for Sauber.

How can both drivers give their best and overhaul Mercedes when one knows he is moving somewhere the grass is greener, and the other is being thrown out?

And how can they both work together now that Perez totally disrepected Kobayashi by letting slip the info and laughing his way out of it?

That shows a lot of immaturity, to say the least, from Perez.

Will be problematic next year.

Hang on Martin, tough times ahead.


Don't get at Perez, as this info was out on the 16th November.

Quote Carlos Slim jnr: "We are talking with Sauber for next season," GMM quoted Slim as having told Mexican newspaper Reforma, "and we intend to continue together.

"Obviously that will be with the participation of a Mexican driver, which is Esteban Gutierrez.

"It would not be that the team gives him a practice event in Formula One if they have no long-term plan for him.

"And for us, we would not have our participation in Formula One without a Mexican driver, so I think it is quite sure that for the first time next year, we will have two Mexican drivers in Formula one for a full season."

Source: http://tinyurl.com/cdgt6a7


I think by now Martin would have learned a few things about handling immature drivers. One is leaving, another one is arriving.

Business as usual at McLaren then 😉


Very good F430. Some of the 'mature' drivers didn't always behave themselves, Senna for example.


I will be sooo sad if Kamui is not in F1 next year. I remember Martin Brundle once saying that when he would meet people who are outside of F1, they would all be talking about how exciting Kamui is to watch.

Since DRS came along, it has become much easier to overtake, so maybe Kamui's stand out skill in overtaking is not nearly as valuable as it used to be?


That's a good point.

Why don't Williams pick up this skilled F1 Samurai than to keep the nut head Maldo? The former can make a good overtaking move without causing destruction, while the latter just shatters everything into pieces in any attempt to overtake.


Because that nut head comes with 30 million dollars. Throw in a stellar qualifying record with a race win and you have pretty good deal for Williams.

If Pastor is to leave Williams in 2014 the only way is moving is up the grid. I am surprised Lotus didnt make a move for him this year given their reported financial issues.


Because they'd have to buy Williams out of the contract. You can only poach drivers if you can afford to.


I too will be very sad to see Kamui go . . . it's unfortunate but I think the decision is all about the $$$


I thought Heikki had a good chance of staying another year at Caterham, shame really!


I feel bad about Petrov and Kamui... I feel they still have something to give in F1...


I'm surprised Petrov was dropped and will be even more so if he doesn't find another drive. I thought he brought with him many sponsors (money) as well as just being Russian.

Sochi 2014; an inaugural Russian GP with no Russian driver is bound to suffer significantly. Especially when Russian fans have become acustomed to seeing a Russian on the grid in recent years. Somehow I don't think Bernie will like this (not that he has any say of who gets a drive, at least not to my knowledge).

Strictly in terms of his driving, Petrov has the potential to be a podium finisher (even a winner, with the right car) but doesn't appear to have the makings of a champion.


Today, motorsport's top level lost a real, 100% racer. Sauber, you blew it. [mod]


Where was the moderator on this one?


I agree on Sutil. I don't see why he would be a consideration. I would like to see Kobayashi in the Force India seat before any of the mentioned candidates.


why is there any need to put that last line on your post? People come to this site to read good honest posts yet you make it like any other F1 site where it is just a waste of time reading it.


Alguersuari was dismissed from STR in a very bad way but I find it hard to see his credentials being better for the seat than Sutil even with the tyre testing.


Look at the records - ALG was growing in second half of 2011, now has learned a lot from the school of hard knocks.

SUT looked to me to have plateaued in 2011 after 6 seasons. He will also have a hunger to prove himself after a year on the sidelines, but I think Alguersuari would get better results from the start of 2013. I say that objectively, not with any regard to having worked with him on BBC Radio 5 this year.


I am not sure that agree with you that Sutil had plateaued James. He had his best season in 2011 with alot hanging over him off the track.

If it true that he is now coming with a few million dollars in his pocket then I would have him in the car. A solid midfield performer with a bit of cash is not to be sniffed at.

If comes down to the the 2nd driver not coming in with any cash Force India have an interesting decision to make. I would take Jamie A and Heiki over Di Resta but why throw away any continuity? There is very little between the above mentioned drivers as well as Kobayashi.


Would Kamui and Heikki not merit serious consideration for Force India considering they are the freshest options available?



Sutil plateaued?

In his last 4 seasons he finished 20th, 17th, 11th and 9th in the championship.

In his final season (2011) he was the highest finisher outside the big 4 (Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren & Merc).

Especially once he was used to the Pirelli tyres at the end of the 2011 season he was also performing very well, like Jaime. In his last 10 GP's he was 6 times in the points, and 5 times in the top 8.

He comfortably beat Liuzzi and Di Resta (both pretty well regarded) in 2010 and 2011.

That seems more like an upward trend than a plateau.




Cheers Vinto, saves me having to reply, you put what was in my head unto paper!


will ALG's role with Pirelli be seen as an advantage to any teams for gaining a better understanding to next years tyres? or will that info become quickly out of date after testing etc


Didn't Alguesuari mentioned a few times he will be in F1 in 2013?

It does not look likely anymore, isn't it? His name didn't came up recently when various journos speculated on the remaining FI & Williams seats.

And with HRT being history in 2013, were else could he go?


It'd be really sad to see a talent such as Kobayashi being left out of F1. Maybe we can hope for a return at a later date. It has been such a pleasure watching the way he races - always perfectly fair, but always racing hard.

Good luck Kamui. You've got a lot of fans out there, and you deserve every one of them.


So this leaves Kovalainen with no seat? Ouch. If I were Force India I'd be tempted to pick him up.


I wonder if he has his fingers crossed for a Williams drive? As I understand it, Senna is yet to be confirmed.


I cant help wondering exectly how these tail end teams think they are ever going to get themselves up the grid by getting rid of the likes of Kovalainen, when it is clearly their cars rather than their drivers that need replacing.


And Heikki?


Alguersuari is making the same use of the Pirelli role that de la Rosa and Heidfeld did, although this year Lucas di Grassi was there too. I dont see value in Sutil returning, i can only imagine he still has valuable personal sponsorship which unfortunately looks more important than i can remember from recent memory. Begs the question then why does Petrov look like getting dropped? Was his backing ever material or always just "potential" from Russia? Kovalainen will be missed though. Whether he was exposed at McLaren as inadequate or still too young and inexperienced to handle himself, at Renault he looked fast and at Lotus/Caterham he's been one of the sports "nice guys".


Hi James, interesting article as always!

I don't usually comment but I always check your fantastic blog.

I was wondering what's the future for the GP2 Champion and runner up, Valsecchi and Razia. Once again, like Pantano (champ) and Filippi (runner-up) before, these drivers have pretty much nowhere to go. Do you have any insight?


No drive for Heikki next year? What a shame. Wasn't he rated as one of the top 5 drives last year and has also driven well this year?

Surely he should get the Force India seat?


I don't understand how Heikki can go from being in the running of a top seat to being out of a drive? Makes no sense.


When does F1 ever make sense? F1 is a tough business, no room for feelings. Like Flavio Briatore used to say: "Business is S%^!"


I cannot see the logic of Caterham pairing Pic with van der Garde. That would be a very inexperienced driver line-up in a team that needs more. For sure Heikki and Kamui need to stay in F1, hopefully they can get one of the still vacant seats. I think Sutil has had his chance, and certainly Kamui and Alguersuari have more potential than him.


An interesting set of moves within the driver market. Firstly, I'm quite glad that Pic will have another year in F1. It's hard to impress when you're at the back, not to mention the whole pay tag as well, but he's competed strongly against Glock and this could be a good move for him. I think it's now certain we'll see Max Chilton alongside Glock at Marussia.

The Gutierrez move sadly down to money. He's not a bad driver by any means, but I didn't see much wow factor about him during his 2 years in GP2. But Sauber need the money, so he was going to be the only option alongside Hulkenberg. The move itself is nsurprising given for many weeks they weren't exactly singing Kamui's praises, even after his Suzuka podium. You just had the feeling even then he was going. I think it's highly unlikely now we'll see him on the grid in 2013, which is such a shame. A real fans favourite.

Lastly, it looks like being Kovalainen's last weekend in F1. So much promise and expection when he came into F1. I believe he could do a very good job for a higher team, but we may never know now. Although Team Lotus/Caterham saved his career, and Heikki has more than repaid the job, it seems that hasn't been enough to attract other teams to make the move for him.

It feels sad in a way that although we're getting new talent coming through, it's debateable if some are totally worthy of a seat of the ones who look set to drop out, all because of money. F1 needs to keeping working to reduce the cost even more.


Max Chilton not good enough for f1. Only there because of money. Such a shame guys like kamui and heikki losing out to this boys with a big deal behind them. I'm not happy with the way f1 is going these days in some areas.


I agree, it's going from Formula One to Formula Wallet. In a few years from now, F1 won't have the best drivers in the world, just the richest.


It's always been like that. Herman Lang stood out as a pre-war Mercedes driver because he worked his way up from being a mechanic, a fact that the aristocrat Von Brauhitsch never let him forget (they'd go for a drink after the races and VB would order "three bottles of champagne, and a beer for Lang"). The very first racing drivers often paid the teams for a seat. I'm pretty sure Mansell had mortgaged everything to become a driver. Lauda had to go begging to a rich relative for funds (he was refused and never spoke to the guy again).

As for a lot of the old japanese drivers - they used to pay fortunes for seats, and rarely even qualified.


i would say jules bianchi is the obvious choice although ALG deserves a second chance


With limited testing under the agreed RRA, I am hoping we do not see someone seriously injured, or worse, due to the increased trend of moving to inexperienced pay drivers.


There was even more pay/inexperienced drivers in F1 in the past & it didn't cause any issues then so I can't see it been a problem now.


Strange how everything in F1 is usually seen by the fans as something new, no matter how long it's been going on for. A newcomer to the sport reading these pages would think that pay-drivers and looking after tyres were new ideas. Both go back to the era of the 21 litre monsters.


F1 is 1 teetering on the brink of something potentially damaging. I think the FIA needs to consider regulating team appointments with regards to the lack of experienced drivers shaping current and future grids. Perhaps a new rule needs to be considered whereas teams are limited to only 1 (pay) driver with no prior F1 experience every two years.


The FIA *do* regulate it.

They won't issue a Super License to someone who hasn't a) won a championship in a lower series or b) done a serious number of testing miles in an existing F1 car.


Unless your name is Kimi 😉


Bad news for Kaumi and Heikki, like many on here I think it'll be a real shame if they are left off the grid for 2013.

That being said with Mclaren potentially risky move in hiring Perez, maybe the 3rd driver seat with them would be something worth gunning for. I get the sense Ron may not be overly happy with the driver line up for 2013 and unless there is significant commercial backing a mid-season change might not be out of the question. (I know Paffet is the current 3rd driver, but if he was going to have a chance it would have happened by now)

With the AABAR sale of Mercedes shares and purchase of additional STR shares is it possible they have bought a say in the team driver line up? I thought AABAR originally came to STR, with CEPSA because of Alguersuari, could he move back to the team?

FIndia would be wise in my eyes to go for Heikki, Senna or Kamui. Whilst Alguersuari has experience of the 2013 Pirelli compounds he doesn't know the impact of the aero changes of the new tyres, and hasn't raced for anywhere for 12 months. Sutil had his chance.

How about a 3rd driver championship running exclusively on Fridays? 20 lap races with 4 engines and 2 gearboxes for the season.

Red Bull – Felix De Costa, Ferrari – Kobayashi, Mclaren – Kovalinen, Lotus – D’Ambrosio, Mercedes – Davidson, Sauber - Fijins, Findia - Karthikeyan, Williams - Wolff, STR - Alguersuari, Marussia –Chilton, Caterham - Rossi


"How about a 3rd driver championship running exclusively on Fridays? 20 lap races with 4 engines and 2 gearboxes for the season."

What about the support categories then though?

All there practice/qualifying is done on Fridays, There's simply no room in the schedule for anything else to happen on Fridays.


Drop a Friday FP session for the F1 teams.

Not all events have busy support race schedules. A 3rd driver event as I suggested could be run in its entirety in 90 minutes.


What a brilliant idea 🙂


This really is not on point abut the news of these confirmations, but - - - I was at Austin, and you could see some of the racing in the back of the pack which you never see on TV.

Over the course of this season I have noticed that Kovalainen is always regarded much more highly than Petrov. Why? While he appears to be one of the 2-3 genuinely nice guys in F1, Petrov regularly out qualifies and out races him.

And what about the Williams 'teammates' banging wheels toward the end of the race?


Heikki has out qualified Petrov 13-6, been the only one to advance to Q2 (twice this season, if I recall correctly) and brought the best race results for Caterham. Can't see how you can see Petrov regularly outqualifying and outracing him based on those stats.

Tornillo Amarillo

Yes, yes yes, I told it before HULK-GONZALEZ was the logical lineup, where money rules. More latinos in F1!


Maybe you told it before... but you was wrong man, who's Gonzalez?

Tornillo Amarillo

Sorry, I mean GIMENEZ!


Wow, there are some extraordinary reactions to these announcements.

The situation at Sauber probably shows how fine the line is in F1. If Kobayashi had outperformed Perez, he might be the one lined up for McLaren - to entice Honda back, the cynics would say - and Perez the one trying to keep his career alive.

I like Kobayashi (and Kovalainen), but they've had good chances in F1 with decent equipment and they haven't met expectations. If they're good enough, someone will offer them a drive (see Hulkenberg), but otherwise, it's just F1.

If Perez, Gutierrez, Chilton, etc. don't deliver, they'll be gone as well...


It is sad that we will lose the likes of Heiki and Kobayashi next year but I hope they do not pick up a 3rd seat anywhere.

In the past few seasons we have seen quite a few midseason changes for various reasons. I would be interested to know Jerome D'ambrosio think he had a better chance to display his talents in that one race with Lotus this year than his entire year at Virgin. Unless you do something really exceptional you are not moving up the grid at the new teams.

I'd imagine that 2nd Lotus seat may come under some review at the start of next season if Grojsean does not seem to be learning from his mistakes. Sauber in the past have not been shy of getting rid of under performing drivers mid-season.

Of course, there is the risk that you are completely forgotten about like say Buemi but I reckon it is much better to be not associated with a team than than aligning with one team as a reserve driver.


Why not? The 3rd driver role has worked well for some. di Resta and Hulkenberg at Force India spent a year as one before being promoted into a race seat.

Wurz did for Williams. Bottas looks likely to move up as well for the same team.

Toro Rosso used Ricciardo and Vergne in the same role last year. If a driver can do a deal to become the 3rd driver, with the possibility of becoming a race driver the season after, it's worth taking that gamble in the long run. If you go out of the F1 radar for even one year, chances are you might not get any sort of foot through the door in the sport again.


Those are roles for young drivers to get some milage and show what they can do. We know what Koybashi and Kovalainen. If they sign up as say McLarens third driver they are restricted themselves to hoping something goes a miss at that team.

Wurz was a test driver not a 3rd driver and he was surprised as anyone that he got that seat. He admitted half way through that year he much prefered being a test driver.


Generally speaking, indeed it is used for young drivers to gain mileage. But like I say, hasn't stopped more experienced drivers using it as well.

Wurz was a 3rd driver though alongside his testing duties considering he ran during Friday Practices throughout 2006, not just in season testing.

de la Rosa did many 3rd driver runnings during 2005 at Mclaren.

Davidson was a regular '3rd driver' during his BAR/Honda years in 04 and 06. That prepared him well for his Super Aguri stint.

Like I say, the role isn't just restricted for the youngsters, but it's a route the teams it seems now prefer to do, now that in season testing is banned these days and obviously young drivers need all the running they can get.


Interested to seen that Davide Valsecchi [GP2 Champion] is not being mentioned in any of the rumours for the final seats. I wonder if the quality of GP2 is being thinned somewhat.


What about the second seat @ Lotus???? Have Roman been confiremed yet? That would be another hot seat to grab...


What about James Calado? Everytime I saw GP2 last year he beat his team mate Guttierez who now has a good drive? In terms of GP2 drivers, him and Chilton ought to be in consideration well ahead of Esteban!


well, you should have seen this season's final standings


Timing is everything in F1, even press releases. I can't fathom why Sauber announced this so late or just before practice unless Kamui has something worked out to be announced after the race or is confirmed he won't have a seat in 2013. The Sauber press release 'final 2 races' looks like it was written to be announced before Austin anyway.

Whether it was performance or money, the Gutierrez drive was sealed when they signed Hulkenburg and Kamui would have known he was on the way out. Monisha made a straight CEO decision.

I'm pretty sure Sauber designed this year's car to suit kamui's liking for high speed corners - its a shame barcelona, silverstone and spa didn't reap better results. If Sauber were going to keep Kamui, his mistakes in Valencia and Silverstone probably swayed them. They obviously feel Hulkenburg will be more consistent than Koby.

Has a driver ever had to raise funds from fans instead of corporates? Kamui will need Obama skills...

Pay drivers have now moved up into the mid-field teams and are getting younger? Is this a good thing?


Jamie suggested that he would definately be in an F1 seat next year. Now that the number of seats are running out, there is a possibility that this "may" not happen.

The F1 business is still cut-throat. If you haven't signed a contract, then nothing is for certain.


Hmm...maybe Kamui can get some rich Japanese businessman to snap up HRT and rebrand it as a Japanese team (why not, it happened before with Super Aguri) to keep him in F1...


Maybe the answer is an "old codgers" championship. Get them out of the way and open up some seats for the youngsters. Is De La Rosa really going to acheive anything now that he hasn't already done? Did Schumacher really do anything at Mercedes that Kobayashi couldn't have done? Barrichello hardly set the world alight in his last year. Much as I like Mark Webber, he's being made to look like an old man desperately chasing the tail of the Wunderkind.

What happened to the F1 Seniors thing that they started a few years ago? Did it just die a quiet death?


I think that Kamui Kobayashi will return with Honda. The Japanese automaker usually supply at least two teans in F-1. Kaobayashi will be in the second team.

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