Scuderia Ferrari’s reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez is likely to take a seat at newly-formed Formula One team Haas racing, which will join the fray in the 2016 season.
Earlier this year, the FIA approved the American team’s entry into Formula 1, and now the team are looking to finalise their drivers ahead of next season. Team owner Gene Haas had earlier said in a statement that he would like to “pair an experienced driver with a new American” one to “beat the Europeans at their own game,” describing employing a “young American” as the “ideal situation” for the team.
However, team principal Guenther Steiner has ruled out an American driver for the coming season, saying that there was nobody experienced enough to take the seat.
"There is nobody out there at the moment. Yes, there are drivers in GP2 and Formula 3, but having a rookie in a new team... that is difficult for both sides," Steiner told the official F1 website.
The strongest contender for the seat now is Gutierrez, who had an active F1 seat from 2013 to 2014 with German team Sauber, but only scored points in the 2013 season. At the end of the 2014 season, the Mexican driver signed with iconic Italian racing team Scuderia Ferrari as their test and reserve driver, and remained in that role this year as well.
Prior the announcement, it had been widely reported that World Endurance Championship winner Nico Hulkenberg would take a seat at Haas, but it was announced last month that the German driver had had his contract renewed by Force India through the 2016 season, as had his teammate Sergio Perez. Both have previously been teammates with Gutierrez at Sauber, with Perez finishing second at Monza in 2012, partnered by Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi.
Although he has not had much success in Formula One yet, Gutierrez has done well across other categories, finishing the Formula BMW Europe series in 2008 as its first ever champion. It was not his only inaugural title, as the then 17-year-old won the first ever GP3 series in 2010.
His last major motor racing success was in GP2 in 2012, when, driving for Lotus, Gutierrez finished in 2nd.
The two teams are already closely linked, with the American outfit set to use Ferrari power units next year in addition to the use of its wind tunnel. Initially investigated by the FIA for this, they were later given the governing body’s seal of approval.
Steiner has said an announcement is forthcoming by the “end of September,” and this close link between the Prancing Horse and Haas means