F1 Winter Break
Mexican money trumps Russian as Esteban Guterriez gets the nod at Sauber
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Dec 2013   |  2:57 pm GMT  |  112 comments

Esteban Gutierrez will get a second season as a race driver for the Sauber F1 Team after Carlos Slim’s Telmex company committed to invest in the team once again. Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin will have to settle for the Reserve Driver role, in which he was confirmed today.

Slim has been part of the Sauber set up for three seasons now, funding first Sergio Perez’ drive there and more recently Gutierrez. But there is a sense that the Mexican billionaire hasn’t committed the kind of funding he’s capable of to the sport, despite everyone looking to him to do so. A revival of the Mexican Grand Prix was given a provisional date on the 2014 calendar but didn’t make it onto the final version. Slim has been reluctant to fund that, preferring to encourage other Mexican businesses and promoters to take some of the strain.

Although Slim is passionate about the sport, has an “establishment” role on the FIA Senate and has done a lot for Mexican drivers, there is a sense that the budget he’s allowed to work with by the parent company is limited so he’s working more on the fringes.

“We at Telmex and Telcel are very proud to continue being part of the Sauber F1 Team to keep consolidating our succesful history in motorsport, particularly in Formula One and our driver development programme for Mexican and Latin drivers such as Esteban Gutiérrez, a great young talent, friend and human being, ” said Slim.

There was a small sponsorship from his Claro company on the McLaren this year, but expert insiders say that was worth only around €4-5 million.

Sirotkin is very young and has so far struggled to persuade the powers that be that he is worthy of an FIA superlicence, but he will keep plugging away. The reserve driver role should get him some outings in the four two day tests scheduled for 2014 and maybe some Friday practice runs too.

The Russian funding announced by Sauber mid way through last season, which was supposed to get Sirotkin a race seat has not flowed as expected and it will be interesting to see how the Mexican and Russian funding models play out at Sauber over the next season or two.

For the Swiss team, still reeling from the withdrawal of BMW at the end of 2009, a high value shareholder is still a first order priority and the budget cap, announced by the FIA this month, but yet to be clarified, cannot come soon enough for them.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

U saw it first here!

Likely sponsorship on board.

Slim other companies (tax deductable and massive raise in his own & group of companies profile)

Genii would stay

Visit Mexico. ( needed after weather devastated tourism)

A clothes brand associated with the drivers

Maybe more Renault car exposure (asRedbull give non)

Certain once it moving and on a sound footing a host of other major non clashing sponsors would clam our to get in.


Pity at this late stage we could not have a driver swop. Then instead of sponsoring drivers slim could buy lotus for $1 and have team Telmex lotus. That would be exciting and really open up for other sponsors with a full blown Renault backing.


I don’t think Esteban showed enough to warrant a second year on merit, he was totally outclassed by Hulkenberg. But it is what it is, this whole pay driver/current state of F1 discussion is becoming redundant.


Pay drivers are going to kill F1 IMO. I need to feel I’m seeing the best drivers.


The best drivers are still going to be at the front in the best cars – nothing to worry about there.

As for the rest of the field…well, if I was a cynic I’d ask who really cares?


Not the most exciting line up in the world but given the financial climate it makes perfect sense for Sauber to take an expierenced solid mid grid driver that comes with a small pot of money and a driver going into his second season with a huge pot of cash.

Sauber have shown in the past that they can be quite ruthless when it comes to axing drivers. If Guterriez shows no signs of improvement from last season I don’t expect him to see out the season. Not having Hulkenburg as his team mate will hopefully give us a better indication as to where he really is.

All the best for 2014 James! Your blog has somehow kept me interested in F1 this year. Keep up the great work! I hope your first post in 2014 is Kobi related.


A bit of a ho-hum pairing for Sauber after a few years of exciting drivers for the Swiss team, but needs must. Sutil will probably do a reasonable reliable job and Guterriez might have a degree of potential unnoticed in 2013. On the alleged Russian investment, since the Minardi Gazprom debacle and then Petrov’s “huge funding”, so far as Russian money is concerned I think F1 teams need take a Jerry Maguire approach – “SHOW ME THE MONEY”. The same might apply to the gentlemen trying to balance the books at Lotus…


Quite happy and relieved for Esteban.

Glad he gets a second season.


How many great drivers, world champions simply wouldn’t be if they entered F1 in this money trumps all atmosphere?


Plenty of ‘F1 greats’ who also used money to get into F1.

Niki Lauda paid his way into F1, Schumacher took money to his 1991 Jordan drive, Alain Prost was helped by cash from elf, Gilles Villeneuve was picked by Ferrari because they wanted a driver from North America (They initially signed Alan Jones).

I could list many more.

The people who seem to believe that the pay driver thing is something new or is worse now than it was are wrong.


+1, there’s maybe just more of an emphasis on them now.


Im very surprised that no teams that are in financial trouble reached out for chinese or brazil sponsors. US$30m is like piece of cake for most of the chinese car/oil/lubricant manufactures.


You’re aware that Williams has signed Massa, right?

That is a bridge to getting Brazilian sponsors.


He didn’t get to be a multi billionaire by throwing money at sports sponsorship with a scattergun approach.


I think this is a good move & expect Esteban to do significantly better in 2014 given 1 years experience.

Lets not forget that Guttierez won the GP3 championship in 2010 & won races in GP2 in 2011/2012 on his way to 3rd in the GP2 championship in 2012 so he’s not as useless as a lot here seem to believe.

He outpaced Hulkenberg a few times in 2013 including at Spa which is a real drivers circuit.

He improved his pace over the 2nd half of the year but lost some results due to bad luck (The ridiculous penalty for been forced off track at spa for instance).

With this year in the bag he will do well in 2014 & silence all the haters who were complaining about him before he’d even sat in the car pre-season.


Hello and happy xmas to all F1 fans

we have complained a lot (collectively) about the greater and greater role of tires in the 2013 season but I think there is still another topic taht is seriously showing something is wrong : now we are supposed to be “excited” about sponsorship money ?

Is that formula 1 ? “will sirotkin money beat guttierez money” ? Will di resta find money to pay for a seat ? Will Kimi get paid ? Is lotus broke ? will caterham and marussia fold ?

For me what’s really exciting in 2014 is the battle between FA and KR, between LH and NR and “will someone finally stops Seb/RB winning streak” ?


you could always ignore articles that focus on this aspect of F1…


I sure can, and maybe will…but I still wish it were not a big issue as it does not fit with what I like most about F1.

Let’s be positive and say it’s nice to have something other than Pirelli to chat 🙂


“For me what’s really exciting in 2014 is the battle between FA and KR, between LH and NR and “will someone finally stops Seb/RB winning streak”?”

100% correct, but since the 2014 season hasn’t started yet this is what passes for news right now.

Once the testing and racing gets underway we’ll most likely be back to talking about:

A: Tyres.

B: How the new regulations affect the racing.

C: Tyres.

D: Tyres.

E: Vettel wins too much.

F: Tyres.

Good times 🙂


Don’t wish too much because it might come true

You forgot near season’s end

G: silly season and pay drivers


Yep, the good times 🙂 should have been a 😉

As for my 2014 talking points wishlist:

A: How good the new formula is.

B: Good close racing.

C: Why isn’t Vettel winning?


As a Mexican, it makes me happy to see another Mexican driver in the grid. However, when I look at the names (in specific Gutierrez), certainly I think about how bad must be the economical situation at Sauber, considering the Swiss team wants to retain Esteban.

I’m sick of F1 getting dummy drivers, there are a few other names that should be taking that seat! How can we say that Vettel (or whoever is going to be the next champion), really beat the best of the best?

I’m sorry for Esteban, because he certainly is a great guy; but racing is not about being nice or not.


It worked for Damon Hill 🙂


Your comment does not make any sense, Aficionado. Gutierrez is not only nice, he is a very good racing car driver.



What a sad and sorry state Formula One has become.

The majority of the teams nowdays have to wait for their pay drivers sponsorship cheques to clear before confirming them as as one of their driver.

Very sad and embarassing for a Formula that calls itself the pinnacle of motorsport.


Forget DRS, KERS, no refuelling, tires designed to rapidly degrade, shrinking engine size, Tilke tracks, or whatever other gripes many fans including me have had in recent years. If I had to pick just one thing about F1 that seems to really be holding it back from showing its true potential, it is that the quality of the field is vastly watered down because many teams are obliged to hire drivers based on how much money they bring with them.

F1 should not deserve call itself the pinnacle of motorsport if it cannot or will not make a priority of putting the best drivers in the world on the grid.

To make a comparison to another sport: just imagine watching Usain Bolt competing in an Olympic final against a field consisting of runners that bought their way to the final, but finish not tenths but SECONDS behind him. This is the kind of bush league scenario that F1 is foisting on the fans.


I disagree. Look at the early to mid nineties. You’d have teams bringing new drivers to each event – the bloke that gave them the biggest cheque on the Wednesday got to drive on Friday. No way are we anything like the era of shoestring teams like Pacific, Forti and Simtek. That’s not to say things aren’t great at the moment, but it’s been worse.


..but say Pacific and Simtek raced in in certainly one year with 14 teams and 28 cars.

Plenty of room for the good drivers in the midfield teams.


I am well aware this practice is not new, nor are other practices that seem to arise more for monetary than practical reasons. It’s like half of F1 is/was legit, while the other half is always kind of a cheap circus.

“Got some bucks and a crappy street course? Sure we’ll let you put on a race! Have a few friends who want their company name on a car that can barely qualify within the 107% time limit? Start a team! No talent? No experience? No problem! Buddy, as long as you have that big wallet around, we’ll keep your seat warm for ya!”


“Are there any reasons more practical than money ones in the context of F1?”

@NFNLNE: You may have a point there. However as with any business, one has to carefully assess not only how MUCH money is coming in, but WHERE it is coming from. Otherwise one can paint themselves in a corner that is plain bad for business. Watering down the quality of your product to save some money in the short term may work, but maybe it does not.

My whole point in this and my other posts is that sometimes taking the quick or easy buck is not the best strategy for a business in the long run. And look what has happened: In the absence of exciting on-track competition, over the past few years F1 has been scrambling to introduce rules that make it more so, and may fans do not like it.

Perhaps F1 has had no other choice but then again, if the best drivers were always on the grid then maybe the racing would naturally be more competitive and exciting without the gizmos? Surely that would then make F1 a more appealing product to the fans, and hence more profitable?


@Mark V

‘nor are other practices that seem to arise more for monetary than practical reasons….’

Are there any reasons more practical than money ones in the context of F1?


These times are long gone. It was when teams like Andrea Moda were started by people who though they just wanted to be in Formula-1 even though their only experience in business was owning a shoe factory when someone like Pedro Diniz was the crown jewel of paydrivers compared to Taki Inoue, Paolo Barilla, Giovanni Lavaggi, Jean-Denis Délétraz, Claudio Langes and Gastón Mazzacane.


I say forget all the things in your first sentence, money is the problem, and they are just symptoms of that.

Greed is the root of all problems, and it is sucking the life out of this sport, as it does in all other areas.


Yes in a roundabout way money is what I was talking about. Like most F1 fans I like the fact that each team has to design and build a new car every season, and that takes a lot of money. Which makes for very cool, very fast cars…at least for the teams that can spend vast amounts of money to design and build them, and still have lots left over to pay drivers good enough to make a difference. But the others may be left scrambling for funds in order to compete and that is partly why the pay drivers come in. The cars simply make a bigger difference than the drivers, at least in the midfield so that is where they focus their efforts. That F1 still cannot find a way to keep the costs down while maintaining a high standard across the grid is why I believe the whole product is suffering.


I’m glad Carlos has cleared up any doubt and formally confirmed that Guterriez is, in fact, a human being. We’ll know it’s finally time to turn off when antelopes and hippos start getting bought drives.


Don’t be silly – if the Hulk struggles to make the weight limit then you can be sure that a hippo will never get a drive no matter how talented he is or how much sponsorship he brings.


Pretty much expecting this. I didn’t think Esteban did enough to earn the seat but really Sauber had very little choice- funding is such a critical thing! Paul Di Resta would be good but without backing it was never on the cards.

I think Sauber are the dark horse in F1 and with the change of regulations they could really impress. The way the C31 improved after summer break was just incredible. The way they battled with Ferrari was really good to see.They seem to have very innovative people and even 2012 seemed to show how good they can be.

James many thanks for delivering your insightful posts as usual in 2013. Merry Christmas to you and your family and look forward to more over the holidays and 2014. Cheers


Force India are looking very strong driver wise in the midfield. Is Mclaren in the midfield?, because they look stronger than them to!


They were definitely a midfield team this year. Look for big improvement this year.


next year


@random – yes, the year after – but that’ll be the extra half second Alonso brings 😉


Maybe the year after.


I understand the economy isn’t great but that all explains part of it imo.


I have a question: is the issue of pay drivers being blown up because of the influx of international drivers from places we normally do not expect F1 drivers come from? All drivers in F1 are funded very much by their native countries. Without that backing they would not make it far. I think Esteban has a good CV and did well as a rookie. Already scored F1 points. Next year will be even better for him. Maldo is another good driver who gets beat up all the time but the guy has talent. And if I was paying the bills to drive, I’d speak my mind and take my money where I can get the best seat possible.


It’s being blown up because because it is a serious issue for the sport to lose the better drivers and to risk teams going bust. Not because of nationality of say Guit, Maldo, Sutil, Perez, Chilt…

More than ever the pay drivers are kicking out far better drivers. Kicking them out of the better teams and kicking them out of the sport.


Can you tell me who has lost a drive b/c of a pay driver? Teams will always and have always gotten the beet they can afford. Only teams that have the luxury of always hiring the cream of the crop are McLaren, Ferrari, and whoever the 3rd best team is at that particular moment. Racing drivers have always come with private sector sponsors. Only difference now is we have drivers being funded by governments or single billionaire. Reason for that is these drivers are coming from places where big time motorsports is still in its infancy so private sector support isn’t there yet. Where as in the motorsports meccas of the Europe, sponsorship and scholarship like channels are well established for decades.


It’s a shame, they were such an exciting team only a few years back….


glad sergey didn’t get the seat, he’s nowhere near ready.


Great news. I think that because of his age and his little experience in F-1, Esteban Gutierrez is no mediocre, as someone suggests.

Just give him a good car and he will show what he can do….


He had a good car in the second half of 2013


Wow, so we are getting into a new era, where 90% of the drivers will be a monetary transaction.

Not only will they need to finance themselves through youth but also be of a favourable stock of investors.

It used to be decided on testing performance, now you are ordered to supply the check.

I know that the F1 was always going to be somewhat an expensive sport but now its becoming a sport that only favours the sponsors!


Money talks! Will be interesting to see if he fairs a little better in year two, not that he embarrassed himself this year.

Will be interesting to see if he gets the shove at any point this season.

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