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Gutierrez impresses on debut with Coyne

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It is never easy to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in the middle of a season. It’s even harder when you haven’t even made an IndyCar start in your career.

That was the challenge facing Esteban Gutierrez this weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Subbing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais, Gutierrez was only confirmed to drive the No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing on June 1, one day before practice began for the Detroit doubleheader.

And despite being a veteran of three Formula 1 seasons (two with Sauber F1 team from 2013-2014 and one with Haas F1 Team in 2016) and contesting three events in this season’s FIA Formula E Championship, he had never driven an IndyCar until morning practice on Friday.

Esteban Gutierrez waves to the fans at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear. Photo: IndyCar

Still, the 25-year-old proved his mettle by making progress throughout the weekend, finishing 19th in Race 1 and 14th in Race 2. Though unspectacular, it was a successful debut for the 25-year-old, who brought the car home in one piece in both races with no apparent mistakes. He immediately gave credit to Dale Coyne Racing for making the transition go as smoothly as possible.

“I’m very pleased and very grateful with the support I got from the team,” he said after Race 1 on Saturday. “It’s been very important for me to get into a rhythm. Obviously, it was a very big challenge to throw ourselves into a weekend at Detroit. A very difficult track and not knowing the car.”

While Race 1 was admittedly about settling into a rhythm, Gutierrez began showing competitive form in Race 2, where he had a stout battle with Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti late in the day. While their battle was outside the top ten, with Gutierrez eventually finishing 14th, the weekend ended on a positive note and Gutierrez is hopeful for more opportunities.

“It was a fantastic experience,” he said of his IndyCar debut weekend. “I really loved the experience this weekend, we have fantastic mechanics and engineers that supported me and helped me get comfortable with the car and all the procedures. It was pretty special and I look forward to more, hopefully.”

Though no official announcements have been made, expectations are that Gutierrez will continue with Dale Coyne Racing for further races this year.

The status of whether Gutierrez will race at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend will come in the next day or two, as he’d need a rookie test scheduled before being cleared to race.

It will likely fall to a team veteran to fill in for Gutierrez at Texas if he is not able to test first.

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Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”