6 October 2012
Gutierrez not guaranteed despite space at Sauber
Sauber will not rush to appoint Esteban Gutierrez as replacement for Sergio Perez, despite having Mexican sponsors to appease.
Sauber has said that it will not be rushed into naming its drivers for next season following the departure of Sergio Perez to McLaren, and insisted that it is not concerned that the Mexican's exit could cost it vital sponsors.
Perez was confirmed as Jenson Button's new team-mate in the wake of Lewis Hamilton confirming that he would be a Mercedes driver in 2013, and the announcement immediately sparked rumours about his replacement at Sauber - and whether the team's backing from the likes of Telmex and Tequila Jose Cuervo would disappear should another Mexican not be appointed in his place. GP2 racewinner Esteban Gutierrez is currently the team's reserve, but CEO Monisha Kaltenborn insists that it is not a given that he would be promoted to a race seat in 2013.
"As we've been saying before, we will announce our driver line-up for next year in due course and we're not in a hurry in doing that," she told journalists at Suzuka, "[Gutierrez has] been with the team a long time, he's been our reserve and test driver for the past two years. Whatever we do with him is something totally independent from Sergio's leaving and we don't really want to mix them together. We'll announce whatever we have to in due course.
"The prospect for next season is good. We know that Telmex has publically stated that his project with Sauber, regarding the Escuderia Telmex, is a long-term project, so it will not be affected by Sergio's leaving the team. It's a natural link there, obviously, because they are from the same country, but it is not just simple [to think] that, because one driver leaves us, all these sponsors will leave. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that."
Prior to Perez being confirmed at McLaren, questions had been raised over the future of team-mate Kamui Kobayashi who, despite being popular with the fans, has irritated the management by not turning performance into points. Whether Perez's departure gives the Japanese ace a stay of execution remains to be seen, but it is possible that Sauber could line up next season with an all-new line-up. Charles Pic, Heikki Kovalainen and Jaime Alguersuari have all been mentioned in connection with a possible berth, although Kaltenborn insists that Michael Schumacher will play no part, despite rumours that Peter Sauber had said he would welcome the seven-time champion - who raced sportscars with the Swiss outfit - with open arms.
"We were never in negotiations with him," Kaltenborn said of Schumacher, before confirming that the team had expected more from 2012.
"We have been seeing that the car is a very competitive car and, when you don't get the results you expect because of situations which you have no chance to change, it is a bit frustrating," she conceded, "But, more important, is that we still continue to believe in this car, which is also the basis for next year's car. We'll just take it race by race and hope it will turn out better next time."
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