Esteban Gutierrez will join Sauber's driver development programme this year, it has been confirmed.

As part of the arrangement the 18-year-old will attend a number of F1 grand's prix to observe what happens during a race weekend. The Mexican will also follow the same training regime as Sauber race drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi and his physical condition will be monitored and evaluated in the same way.

"We view this link-up as a kind of sponsorship arrangement," explained team boss Peter Sauber. "Nowadays you can only give young drivers a very limited amount of help in gaining a foothold in F1. With the limited number of testing opportunities, it is important for the teams to have the race drivers in the cars during those sessions.

"However, the world of F1 is so complex that you can learn a great deal just by watching and listening to what's going on. That's the opportunity we're giving Esteban. And we will also help him to get himself in F1-trim physically."

Gutierrez, who will line up for the ART Grand Prix Team in the new GP3 race series, is excited about the opportunity with Sauber.

"I felt very comfortable at the young driver test at Jerez in December and enjoyed every second, but I also saw that I still have a lot to learn before I'm ready to be a good F1 driver," he added. "Experience behind the wheel is, of course, the most important thing, but I'm under no illusions.

"I'm happy that the Sauber team has shown so much confidence in me by giving me the chance to look behind the scenes and learn about the sport. And at the same time, I will be training hard with an instructor, which will definitely help me achieve my goals in the GP3 series."