Gutierrez: I have proved that I deserve to be in F1

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Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez is confident that he has proven himself to be worthy of a seat in Formula One as he heads into the winter break without a secure contract for next season.

The Mexican driver finished inside the top ten on just one occasion in 2013, finishing seventh at the Japanese Grand Prix. However, this did mean that he finished the year as the top rookie with Valtteri Bottas picking up just four points and Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton all failing to score any points. In his ‘Rookie Diary’ for the official Formula One website, Gutierrez explained that his is not feeling uneasy about 2014.

“How much of a weight on my mind is it that I don’t have a contract for next year yet? Well, once you get into Formula One you have to accept that it is a pretty unstable situation for most drivers,” he explained. “Maybe you have stability for the first three months, and the rest is a roller coaster ride. But that is something that you get used to and you should not combine what is happening around you with your performance.

“The bottom line is that I have big goals in F1 and I want to achieve them. I believe that with my race performances from Singapore onwards I have proved that I have the level to be in Formula One. So I am confident for my future. God will place things where they belong.”

Gutierrez is not the only Mexican driver looking for a seat in the sport next season with McLaren’s Sergio Perez also without a contract for 2014.

However, Gutierrez is probably one of the most improved drivers across the course of the season. He has certainly turned a corner since the Singapore Grand Prix when he explained how he wanted to be more aggressive. Since then, he has regularly competed for points, and he will be hoping that this has been enough to prove himself worthy of a seat next year.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.