It's been tough introduction to the life of a F1 driver for Esteban Guti?rrez in the four long haul races at the start of the season, which saw him penalised for crashing into the back of Adrian Sutil at China and a distinct impression that even his bosses at Sauber weren't impressed with his introduction to Grand Prix racing to date.

Qualifying in Spain left him with a three place grid penalty for blocking Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus in the final sector of the lap in Q1, so what Guti?rrez really wanted from Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona was a strong, controversy-free run that could finally show off what he could do.

"This is a step forward, said the young Mexican after the race, in which he just missed out on catching Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo to steal the final points position at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"I focused on getting the most out of the car today, and it was important to achieve a result like this for me and the team," he said. "At the beginning of the race I was quite surprised about how much I could get out of the tyres, [but] the last two stints were a bit more difficult.

"The team has given me the patience and tools to improve as a driver and this is what I could extract from the car," he added.

"Esteban drove a very strong race and worked well with the engineers to get the most out of the car," said Tom McCullough, the head of track engineering for the team. "Although he started from 19th, he missed tenth place by less than half a second."

"Esteban delivered a very strong performance," agreed Sauber F1 team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. "We are happy about it and we hope this will give him confidence."

But Kaltenborn admitted that she was still nonetheless disappointed about the overall lack of championship points for Sauber from this week's race.

"To finish a race without points is always disappointing," she said. "We didn't expect to make a huge step forward, because we knew that other competitors would also have improvements. However, our updates worked as expected, which is positive. Nevertheless, we know we have to further improve."

Hopes that Nico H?lkenberg would be able to deliver those points after he ran as high as seventh place in the mid-section of the 66-lap race were dashed when he was involved in a pit lane collision with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne. While Vergne's car eventually retired as a consequence, H?lkenberg limped home but was mired in 15th position thanks to a stop-go penalty handed to the team for an unsafe pit release into the Toro Rosso car's path.

"We knew that it would be a difficult race today. The start went well and, until the incident in the pit lane, we looked quite good," said H?lkenberg. "We planned for a three stop, but then had to convert to a four stop. But then we had the incident, which ruined the race for us.

"Obviously the timing wasn't quite right, but we are a team, so we have to look into it and make sure it does not happen again," he added.



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