May 12th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez finished 11th in the Spanish Grand Prix, just three tenths of a second away from his first points as a Formula One driver. The young Mexican has had a challenging start to 2013, but finally justified his place at Sauber with a strong drive at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Until today, Gutierrez's F1 career was a series of rookie errors and unfortunate mishaps. The most obvious of his mistakes occurred in China when he ran into the back of Force India's Adrian Sutil in the early part of the race. Yesterday, he was found to have impeded Kimi Raikkonen in the first part of qualifying and handed a three-place grid penalty as a result. It looked like Gutierrez's fledgling career was going from bad to worse.
But it all turned around in today's race. Gutierrez started 19th, but made up three places in the early part of the race, before suddenly finding himself in the lead when most of the rest of the field pitted. He ran as high as seventh twice more in the race, but did not quite have the pace to challenge for the final points-paying position and finished 11th, right on the tail of 10th-placed Daniel Ricciardo. Perhaps most significantly for his confidence, Gutierrez finished ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, although that was largely due to Hulkenberg receiving a 10-second stop and go penalty after tangling with Jean-Eric Vergne in the pitlane.
Gutierrez commented after the race: "I focused on getting the most out of the car today, and it was important to achieve a result like this for me and the team. The team has given me the patience and tools to improve as a driver and this is what I could extract from the car. It was a tough race and tyre management was critical. At the beginning of the race I was quite surprised about how much I could get out of the tyres. The last two stints were a bit more difficult, but this is a step forward."