Gutierrez wins battle of the rookies in Australia

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Esteban Gutierrez’s Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix has seen him finish ahead of his fellow rookies.

Along with Valtteri Bottas, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde, the race in Melbourne was Gutierrez’s first full Grand Prix experience, and he managed to finish a respectable 13th on debut for Sauber having made a two-stop strategy work to finish 7.4 seconds ahead of Bottas.

Williams had struggled all weekend with their car, and Pastor Maldonado called it “undriveable” after he was eliminated in Saturday’s Q1 session. Bottas managed to race strongly though, and the flying Finn will be keen on matching his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at some point this season.

It was another rookie, Jules Bianchi, who finished behind Bottas, and he was elated with the result. Bianchi finished one lap ahead of Caterham’s Charles Pic, underlining the pace of the Marussia MR-02. His teammate, Max Chilton, was embroiled in a race-long battle with Giedo van der Garde, and the Briton eventually got the better of the Caterham driver to finish almost half a minute up the road.

Although none of the drivers managed to score any points, the majority of the rookies will be pleased with their debut outings. For Bottas, he will be happy to have outraced his teammate before Maldonado retired, and Bianchi’s impressive form could be a sign of things to come at Marussia. Gutierrez will be happy to have finished strongly in his first race, but with Nico Hulkenberg failing to start, it will be hard to tell just where Sauber stand until the Malaysian GP next weekend.

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.