Haas F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez says he always retained faith that he would eventually return to the Formula 1 grid despite two disappointing seasons with Sauber that led to him taking a year out of racing to become Ferrari's test driver.
The young Mexican, a former GP3 Series champion, made his F1 debut in 2013 with Sauber but endured a tough maiden campaign, managing just a sole top ten result with a seventh place in Japan.
Retained by the Swiss team for the following season, worse was to follow as Gutierrez and team-mate Adrian Sutil suffered with the team's slump in 2014, the 24 year-old failing to score before being dropped altogether.
Unable to source another race drive for 2015, Gutierrez accepted the chance to join Scuderia Ferrari as its test and reserve driver, where he impressed the team with his work ethic and feedback. Even so, he says taking a year out of racing at his age was a 'big risk'
“I've taken quite big risks, starting from the end of 2014, to join Ferrari as reserve driver,” he told Crash.net
. “Of course it was an amazing opportunity to be in a team like Ferrari but the fact that I was stepping down from driving to be a reserve driver was not guaranteeing anything but with a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, showing Ferrari what I was able to do.”
Despite this, Gutierrez says he was clear in his mind that he would establish a return to the F1 grid soon enough.
“I was always confident. I was always committed to my goals. I had my targets very well defined, what I wanted to achieve in F1 but sometimes, if you really think about it, I found myself in a tricky position, nothing was guaranteed and it could have been the end of my career. But you take the risk, you trust, you have faith, you keep pushing, you learn new lessons, and I guess that gave me an incredible experience to acknowledge and do things better.”
Gutierrez will drive the Haas VF-16 on the first two days of the F1 test before heading out to Melbourne for the team's debut at the Australian Grand Prix.