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Gutierrez plays down Telmex link

26 February 2013

Esteban Gutierrez is keen to make his mark as a racing driver in F1 and not be seen as just another one of the increasing number of 'pay drivers' that the sport is leaning on to supply funds to cash-strapped teams.

Gutierrez denied that he'd actually been told of his appointment to Sauber's F1 race team in 2013 in person by Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who heads the Telmex telecoms company that is Sauber's main sponsor.

"No. I have had a contract for four years with Sauber," Gutierrez told Spain's El Confidential. "My deal is with them.

Gutierrez replaces another Mexican driver at Sauber, after Sergio Perez was headhunted by McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton after the former world champion opted to switch to the Mercedes team in 2013.

"Obviously, the relationship with Carlos is very close because they are my sponsors, but unlike Checo they have not been my managers," explained Gutierrez. Slim's son - also named Carlo - is directly involved in the driver's management team.

"We have always worked with them as a sponsor, and they have been very supportive," said Gutierrez. "But I have my relationship with Sauber and a programme that has been developed over time with them," he insisted.

While there has been a lot of criticism about the prevalence of pay drivers in F1 this season, and Gutierrez undoubtedly carries with him lucrative sponsorship backing from Telmex, the 21-year-old has already proven his talent during his rise through junior series to earn his place in F1 this season.

He was the Formula BMW Europe champion in 2008 - the first Mexican ever to win that title - and followed it up by becoming the first-ever GP3 champion in 2010. He then spent the next two seasons racing in the GP2 feeder series.

Although his best championship finish in GP2 was third place in the 2012 season, Gutierrez picked up four race wins and another five podium finishes together with six fastest laps in his two seasons with the Lotus GP team.

Gutierrez combined his GP2 season with test and development work as Sauber's third driver, picking up his F1 Grand Prix weekend d├ębut last year in free practice at India. He'll make his first appearance in a race next month in Albert Park, Melbourne at the season-opening Australian GP on March 17.


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