Sauber F1 test driver Esteban Gutierrez has become one of the first drivers confirmed for next year's GP2 Series, even as this year's competition reaches its final round in the glamorous surroundings of Yas Marina.
The Mexican, who won the inaugural GP3 Series title with ART Grand Prix, had been tipped to either remain with the French squad or sign with Telmex-backed Barwa Addax for 2011, but it is the former that has won his signature ahead of its tie-up with Group Lotus. Next year will be Gutierrez's third with ART, having also contested the 2009 F3 Euroseries with the team.
“After our title in the GP3 Series, this is the logical next step to make with Esteban and I'm delighted our collaboration will bring him to the best F1 feeder series, the GP2 Championship," team boss Frederic Vasseur commented, "Esteban is an extremely talented driver and, despite his young age, is also very mature. He is an easy going person and everyone at Lotus ART Team enjoys working with him and we look forward to racing with him again next season.”
Scheduled to contest both the winter-based GP2 Asia and main summer championships, the teenager will first take to the wheel of a GP2 car at the roll out of the 2011-spec machine at Paul Ricard next week, despite also being involved in F1's 'young driver' test with Sauber.. He will also drive on all four days of the inter-season GP2 test sessions organised for Abu Dhabi on 23-24 and 27-28 November.
“It will be a very interesting season and I am delighted to continue my career with Lotus ART Team because they are definitely one of the best race teams," Gutierrez enthused, "The GP2 Series is a new exciting challenge with long races and pit-stops as well as tyre management. There is a lot of new parameters that I will have to learn to cope with but, with Lotus ART, I am in the best school possible. I will do my best to make things run smoothly and hopefully I will have a good debut season.”
Gutierrez's deal also means that either Jules Bianchi - recently confirmed as Ferrari test driver next season - or Sam Bird will have to leave the ART set-up, despite winning races in 2010.
In a separate announcement, ART revealed that it would be quitting the F3 Euroseries to focus on other projects that would be revealed in the near future. While there was no hint as to what may lie ahead, its recent tie-up with Group Lotus, and the Malaysian's new links to Renault in F1, hint at a possible grand prix future despite the French team withdrawing from the race to fill the 13th grid slot in 2011.