Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has admitted that seeing rookie Esteban Gutierrez finally claim his first points in the top flight has vindicated the decision not to ditch him after an erratic start to the year.

Despite qualifying in the top ten at each of the last two races - on the very different circuits in Singapore and Korea - Gutierrez had been unable to reproduce the same sort of result on race day, although recent misses had not necessarily been down to him. His improvement has gone hand-in-hand with Sauber's own performance, which has seen team-mate Nico Hulkenberg score strongly in recent races.

Ironically, Gutierrez missed the final phase of qualifying in Japan, but capitalised on a lightning start that saw him pick up five places on the opening lap, before settling into a run to seventh place.

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"It is such a big relief, because we've been seeing how he has been improving over the last few races after he had a really rough start into the season," Kaltenborn told Reuters, "It just takes that little bit more to let something explode or just open up in him. And that's what's happened now.

"I think it's very important for him because he has been criticised quite a lot. When you have a rookie you always have a certain risk attached to it and it was no different with him. We knew he would make mistakes - and it was quite a lot at the beginning - but that's all part of growing into F1. When we took him up, we were convinced - and we still are - that he is a very talented driver."

Despite becoming the first rookie to score points in 2013 - albeit in a race against drivers in teams at the far end of the grid - Gutierrez still cannot rely on Sauber being able to retain him for a second season. With the likely arrival of Sergey Sirotkin, thanks to the Hinwil operation's new Russian backers, it may be too risky to employ a second year driver as team leader and, with former Sauber favourite Felipe Massa on the market, the Mexican's days may be numbered.

"We will try to keep going with this rhythm and be consistent from now until the end of the season," Gutierrez told Sky Sports after the race, "It has been a lot of work to get up to this point and, while it has not been an easy path, I think it has been a very solid one. Knowing we can achieve something like this, you really go forward and do your best and push."