esteban gutierrez

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Gutierrez set to ‘explore the feeling of enjoyment in IndyCar’

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Esteban Gutierrez has a better peace of mind for his second Verizon IndyCar Series weekend this year, this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), than his first at Detroit earlier this month.

That’s because he’s now been confirmed for the remainder of the races that Sebastien Bourdais won’t drive, until Bourdais’ return to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and he has track experience at Road America from both Formula BMW races a decade ago.

“It’s a track that I enjoy a lot. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I have great memories from 2007 when I was racing Formula BMW USA,” Gutierrez reflected. “I was actually fighting my way from the back of the field in one of the races. I got up to second. We finished with a very small margin at the start/finish line. It was a very enjoyable moment, a great race that I have very close in my memory.

“Coming back quite many years after, 10 years after, I’m very, you know, excited to get into an IndyCar. Very powerful, very grippy, really nice racing car. You know, it’s really a nice experience to do every lap in this track.”

Gutierrez had a test day on June 14, which he wasn’t publicly identified for at the test but was always planned following his debut at Detroit.

“Obviously to throw myself into Detroit was quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar, with no testing, straight in the weekend. I think it was a very interesting experience,” he explained.

“Now that I come to Elkhart Lake with a test behind my belt before the weekend, it’s great. I’m really enjoying a lot. I’m very happy of where I am today, with the challenge I have ahead, with the future ahead.

“I would like to explore more that feeling of enjoyment here in IndyCar. I’m just going to go through it. I’m going to live every moment. I’m going to focus on the present and see what we can do in the future.”

And although his rookie teammate Ed Jones is only nine races into his own IndyCar career, Gutierrez says he’s already been able to learn a lot from him and from Bourdais.

“(There’s) quite a lot,” Gutierrez said he’s learned from Jones already. “And also from Sebastien. I’ve been in contact with him. Been in contact with few drivers to try to get some tips, to get a feeling of what are their thoughts, their experiences, to help me, you know, get quicker into the knowledge of the car, in general, and the series, and the competition here.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with him were related to the technical side of the car, in order for me to understand how the car is working, how the car is evolving through a weekend. It helped me a lot in Detroit. It’s helping me a lot here. Obviously we had the test which allowed us as a team to prepare better.

“Yeah, race by race, it will be clearer and clearer. But Sebastien is always there involved kind of following all the meetings, following the practice sessions, the qualifyings. Yeah, is great to be in touch. Sebastien is a great driver. I really been following him from the past. So, yeah, we’re here and trying to do my best to adapt quickly to the racing here.”

Both Gutierrez and Jones are IndyCar rookies and as such are feeding off each other to learn.

“It’s all about sharing information after each session. It’s about contributing,” he said. “Obviously he has more experience than me in IndyCar, and he has proven to be quite good here. So Ed, you know, we’ve been always together in the meetings. Obviously me trying to understand what is his way of working through the weekend with the setup of the car.

“In my case, I’m very open, because obviously I have no experience in IndyCar. So been always with a very open approach, trying to get as much information as I can, absorb everything, and learn as much as possible.”

Gutierrez briefly dovetailed into the Formula E contractual situation where he had driven with the Techeetah team. He said there was “really nothing to talk about” and that he enjoyed the experience, but said this was an opportunity he wanted to explore.

What he will be exploring for the first time next week is his first oval test at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday, and he’s excited about that.

“I’m aware that it’s completely different. Fortunately I will have a test on Tuesday to prepare, to get to know the reality of an oval, because you can review a lot of data, you can prepare on the theory, but always, you know, when you get to the reality of driving, it’s a complete different story.

“I’m really looking forward to Tuesday. I’m very sure that I will enjoy it, that I will enjoy that kind of racing. So, yeah, I’m excited to get to know — to expand my racing knowledge and to know how to race in ovals.”

For now he’ll get through this weekend and look to build continuity with the Coyne team and Jones as his teammate.

Gutierrez confirmed for rest of year at Coyne after TBA saga

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Esteban Gutierrez’s winding road to being confirmed in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the remainder of the 2017 season, starting at Road America for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series KOHLER Grand Prix, has come only after a circuitous few weeks since his series debut in Detroit earlier this month.

On Thursday morning, the Coyne team has confirmed Gutierrez will be in the No. 18 UNIFIN Honda for the remaining races until Sebastien Bourdais returns. This ends a driver rotation since his accident in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. James Davison, Gutierrez and Tristan Vautier have been in the car since.

As for Gutierrez, he made his debut on the street course at Belle Isle Park, only for his FIA Formula E Championship team Techeetah to have alleged a breach of contract by Gutierrez for taking on the IndyCar opportunity to replace the injured Sebastien Bourdais with Coyne.

Team owner Coyne told IndyCar Radio at Detroit he expected Gutierrez in for Road America and said he’d have a test day later in the month.

The next obstacle for Gutierrez was seeing if he could get an oval test to race at Texas Motor Speedway. But with IndyCar on a test blackout those days in-between Detroit and Texas, that wasn’t cleared, and Vautier filled in.

Gutierrez indeed tested at Road America on June 14 as scheduled, however was doing so under the auspices that he couldn’t post anything about it nor could the team say anything about it, reportedly due to the ongoing Formula E situation whereby Stephane Sarrazin wound up replacing Gutierrez at Techeetah. Gutierrez briefly posted a tweet from the test, but deleted it mere moments later.

Sarrazin was only cleared by the stewards mere hours before the start of the Berlin ePrix weekend as it was deemed a late driver change.

While Gutierrez was, again, still expected for Road America, the fact Team AKKA-ASP announced Renger van der Zande to fill in for Vautier in the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the weekend’s Blancpain Endurance Series race at Paul Ricard stoked rumors that Vautier might have an encore performance after his Texas showcase. The entry list was released on Tuesday with TBA by Coyne’s No. 18 car.

Alas, the long and short of all of this is Gutierrez is in for Elkhart Lake to kick off the rest of his season, and now has a test day in an IndyCar under his belt and past race experience there in Formula BMW, albeit a decade ago.

“I’m very happy to finally announce my racing program for the rest of the season,” Gutierrez said. “To represent Mexico in the Verizon IndyCar Series has a huge significance to all the fans that have been following the series through history and I’m very grateful to fill in this position.

“IndyCar has highly competitive teams and drivers and the challenge for me will be great, but I will use all my experience from Formula 1 with Sauber, Haas F1 Team and Ferrari in order to adapt quickly to the car and the tracks. I look forward to continue working with Dale Coyne Racing and Honda, I put my trust in them to achieve great results together. I cannot wait to jump in my Unifin #18 car at Road America this weekend!”

Coyne added, “We’re very pleased that Esteban can join us for the remainder of the season. Esteban did a very good job in Detroit despite having a lot to learn in a short amount of time. He fit in very well with the team and I look forward to our next races with him, starting with Road America this week.”

Qualifying coverage on NBCSN takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. ET with the race live Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Techeetah claims Gutierrez breached contract by quitting Formula E

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BERLIN, Germany – The Techeetah Formula E team has accused Esteban Gutierrez of breaching his contract after quitting the all-electric championship in order to take up a drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing.

After losing his drive in Formula 1 with Haas at the end of last year, Gutierrez announced in January that he would be entering Formula E, making his debut with Techeetah in Mexico City at the beginning of April.

The Mexican took part in just three Formula E races before departing to take up a seat in IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing, replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 Honda for the Detroit race last weekend.

Gutierrez has not been formally confirmed for the rest of the IndyCar season and will miss this weekend’s race in Texas as he has not been able to complete an oval test, but is expected to take the seat until Bourdais returns.

There was some confusion upon arrival in Berlin as Gutierrez’s replacement, Stephane Sarrazin, did not receive approval to race for Techeetah from the stewards until Friday afternoon.

Formula E teams are required to nominate their drivers two weeks in advance of a race, putting Techeetah and Venturi – Sarrazin’s former team – in breach of this regulation.

Techeetah argued that the breach was “a result of an alleged breach of contract between the driver and the competitor,” which the stewards accepted.

“It was reported to the Stewards that the nominated driver Mr. Esteban Gutierrez breached his contract with the competitor Techeetah and decided to compete in another series which conflicted with Formula E Championship,” a stewards note reads.

“The stewards in accordance with ISC 12.2.6 will refer this alleged breach of contract to the FIA International Tribunal.”

When approached by NBC Sports, Techeetah declined to comment on the matter.

Venturi has been hit with a €5,000 fine for also breaching the same regulation by drafting in Tom Dillmann to replace Sarrazin for the remainder of the season.

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.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

 

Sarrazin takes Gutierrez’s Techeetah Formula E seat

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Esteban Gutierrez looks poised to see out the remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series season with Dale Coyne Racing after the Techeetah Formula E team signed Stephane Sarrazin to his seat.

Gutierrez moved into Formula E after losing his Formula 1 drive at the end of last year, racing in Mexico City, Monaco and Paris with Techeetah.

The Mexican will make his IndyCar debut in Detroit this weekend with Dale Coyne Racing in place of the injured Sebastien Bourdais, who is out of action until at least the season finale at Sonoma on September 17.

Team owner Dale Coyne confirmed on Friday that he planned for Gutierrez to see out the season despite three Formula E schedule clashes in the next two months.

On Saturday, Sarrazin was confirmed to be leaving Venturi for the remainder of the Formula E campaign, joining Techeetah in place of Gutierrez.

Venturi will replace Sarrazin with Tom Dillmann, who made his Formula E debut in Paris last month in place of Maro Engel, who was tied up with DTM duties.

“A positive solution for all those involved,” Venturi team principal Gildo Pallanca Pastor said. “With his experience, Stephane will be embraced by Techeetah and at the same time, the season will offer Tom the chance of gathering further important experiences with Venturi.

“This means that all the three Venturi joint drivers, Maro Engel, Stephane Sarrazin and Tom Dillmann will contest the coming championship rounds in Berlin, New York and Montreal.”

As noted by my colleague Tony DiZinno, this was the penultimate hurdle for Gutierrez to clear if he wants to enter the remaining races on the IndyCar calendar, with the final task being an oval test ahead of next weekend’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.