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Haas F1 Hires Second Driver

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2015
Haas F1 announced Friday that Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico will join the team as its second driver.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)

Haas F1 announced Friday that Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico will join the team as its second driver. (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)

Capitalizing on its technical partnership with Scuderia Ferrari, American-led Haas F1 Team has signed Esteban Gutierrez to complete an internationally diverse driver lineup for its inaugural season in the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Gutierrez, a 24-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, was introduced Friday by team founder/chairman Gene Haas at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, site of Sunday’s Gran Premio de Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Gutierrez will be paired at the first American-led F1 team in 30 years with current Lotus F1 Team lead driver Romain Grosjean, the 29-year-old Frenchman who was introduced last month at Haas F1 Team’s U.S. headquarters in Kannapolis, N.C.

Gutiérrez currently is the No. 3 driver at Scuderia Ferrari. The most successful team in F1 history with 16 Constructors’ titles and 15 Drivers’ championships, Ferrari will provide Haas F1 Team its power unit, gearbox and overall technical support. Gutierrez joined the Maranello, Italy-based team in 2015 after spending the 2013-2014 seasons with the Ferrari-powered Sauber F1 Team.

“I got to know Esteban through our relationship with Ferrari, and after looking at the success he’s had to earn his role there, it became clear he was an excellent choice for our race team,” Haas said in a statement. “He’s young and hungry, but not inexperienced. His two years running a full F1 schedule has given him some very good race experience, and having spent this season at Ferrari as their third driver allowed him to see first-hand the methodology that makes Ferrari such a power in Formula One.

“We’re very happy to have Esteban as a part of our race team. Between him and Romain we have a strong driver lineup that will help us develop our car and, ultimately, score some points in our inaugural season.”

Gutiérrez will get his first drive with Haas F1 Team during the preseason test at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, set for Feb. 22-25. A second test at Barcelona is scheduled for March 1-4 before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix March 20 in Melbourne, Australia.

“This is an excellent opportunity that builds on my time with Ferrari and I will make the most of it,” said Gutiérrez, who has made 38 career F1 starts. “Gene Haas believes in me and I believe in how he’s going about competing in Formula One. To have a race seat in a competitive car with Ferrari power is very special, and I appreciate the faith he has in me. I trust we’ll be able to achieve great things together.”

In his role with the Scuderia this season, Gutierrez has worked alongside four-time (2010-2013) World Driving Champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany and 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland.

“All along we said we were looking for experienced drivers, and we have that with Romain and Esteban,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal, Haas F1 Team. “Romain has more starts (80/zero wins), but Esteban has a deep knowledge of Ferrari and how they do things. He’s learned from the best in his role as their third driver, which means he knows how they’ve developed their current cars. He’s been a big part of that and he’ll be a big part in the development of our cars at Haas F1 Team.”

Gutiérrez began his racing career in 2004, competing in the final three rounds of the Mexican Rotax Max Challenge karting championship. He won the North Mexican Series in 2006 and finished fourth in the Mexican Grand Nationals. Simultaneously, he scored five wins from five starts in the Camkart Challenge Mexico Series.

A jump to open-wheel racing followed in 2007 when Gutiérrez competed in the inaugural Formula BMW USA Series. He scored nine pole positions and earned four victories from a total of eight podium finishes, securing Rookie of the Year honors and second-place in the championship.

The strength Gutiérrez displayed in America continued overseas when he joined the Formula BMW Europe Series in 2008. With seven wins _ including six consecutive _ Gutiérrez won the championship. At age 17, he was the youngest Mexican driver to win an international driving title. That accomplishment earned Gutiérrez his first taste of F1, as the prize for winning the European championship was a test for the Sauber F1 Team based in Hinwil, Switzerland.

His breakout season sparked the interest of ART Grand Prix, one of the benchmark junior open-wheel teams competing across various European series. Their collaboration in the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series produced a pair of podium finishes at the famed Nürburgring in Germany and Dijon in France.

Creation of the GP3 Series for the 2010 season allowed Gutiérrez and ART Grand Prix to set another benchmark. Gutierrez scored five wins from eight podiums, allowing him to wrap up the inaugural championship with two rounds to spare.

With two championships in two years, Sauber F1 Team signed Gutiérrez as its test and reserve driver for 2011. That role allowed Gutiérrez to continue racing and he moved to the GP2 Series, where he won in the fourth round in Valencia, Spain. In 2012, Gutiérrez continued his dual role of test and reserve driver for Sauber F1 Team while also racing in GP2. His improvement was impressive, as he posted three victories en route to finishing third in the championship standings.

Sauber F1 Team named Gutierrez to a fulltime race seat in 2013 alongside Nico Hulkenberg of Germany. Gutiérrez made his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix in March 2013, qualifying 18th and racing to a 13th-place finish as the highest-placed rookie in the field. His first point-earning finish came later that year in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, when he finished seventh.

A second season with Sauber F1 Team produced a best finish of 12th, earned in the opening round of 2014 at the Australian Grand Prix. Despite a lack of consistent results, Gutiérrez’s perseverance and driving style piqued the interest of Scuderia Ferrari.

Haas F1 Team is based on the same North Carolina campus as Haas’ championship-winning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, Stewart-Haas Racing, co-owned by three-time champion Tony Stewart. Haas also is the founder of Haas Automation, Inc., the largest CNC machine tool-builder in North America.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2015
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