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Belgian Grand Prix: Gutierrez unhappy over penalty

It was never likely to be an auspicious début for Esteban Gutierrez in Spa after rain in qualifying left him on the back of the grid, but he's still smarting over the penalty he was handed by the race stewards.
Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez found himself in trouble with the race stewards on Sunday, earning himself a drive-thru penalty in the closing stages of the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage while pulling off an overtaking move on William's Pastor Maldonado.

Gutierrez was 14th at the time and on a charge that could have seen him get into the top ten, but the stewards' decision undid all that hard work - and the driver wasn't happy with what he felt was an unjustified penalty.

"I totally respect the FIA 's decision to penalise me for overtaking Pastor," he said. "But I don't agree with the penalty."

The team was convinced that had it not been for the drive-thru, Gutierrez would have been well positioned to gain a point or two at the end of the race.

"It was clear that for Esteban starting so far back would be difficult, but his pace and tyre management was strong, and it was unfortunate he ended up with a drive through penalty," said Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering. "Otherwise he would have been close to the points towards the end of the race."

"Esteban did a good job, but the drive-thru penalty made it impossible for him to score points," agreed Sauber F1 team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, after Gutierrez struggled back from the penalty to finish in 14th place by the chequered flag, a lap off the lead.

Starting from the back row of the grid after a rain-hit qualifying session, Gutierrez had been one of only four drivers to start the race on hard compound prime tyres. That made it hard work for the Mexican driver, but meant he was able to work his way up as high as ninth place before his late first visit to pit lane on lap 20.

"From where I started I had to make progress and be clever about how much I could push," he explained. "It was a matter of finding the right balance between pushing and taking care of the tyres, and I found that balance pretty well.

"I just focused on being as quick as possible, trying to manage the tyres well and getting the most out of the car," he said. "We lost a lot of time in the first stint with the traffic I encountered as I was coming from the back of the field."

Gutierrez was also involved in a subsequent incident which saw Williams' Pastor Maldonado crash into the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta on lap 28, after the Venezuelan grew tired of being held up by the slower Sauber.



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