Recently-crowned World Series by Renault champion Robin Frijns has thanked the Sauber team for giving him the chance to expand his F1 experience after being signed as the Swiss team's new reserve driver
The Dutchman was confirmed at the same time as Esteban Gutierrez, who takes the second race seat alongside Nico Hulkenberg, after impressing in the 'young driver' test at Abu Dhabi before F1 headed for last weekend's USGP in Austin. The 21-year old, who is only two days younger than Gutierrez, started his career in karting, before stepping up to single-seaters in 2008, going on to win the Formula BMW Europe title two years later. He was the Formula Renault Eurocup champion in 2011, before going on to claim an historic title success in his first year in the highly-competitive Renault World Series this season.
“Monitoring Robin's racing career makes it easy to spot his potential," Sauber team principal Monisha Kalternborn insisted, "This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the young driver days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to F1. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”
The Netherlands have not had an F1 driver since Jos Verstappen's career came to an abrupt end, after 106 starts, in 2003, and Frijns - who also ran with Red Bull at Yas Marina - is determined to turn his Sauber role into an opportunity to follow in his countryman's footsteps.
“I'm very happy the Sauber team has given me this opportunity," he commented, "I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me. With this opportunity, I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how F1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”
It remains unclear whether Frijns will combine his new test and reserve role with a race seat in another series. Gutierrez notably spent two years in GP2 while carrying out his duties with Sauber in 2011-12.