Mexicans Perez, Gutierrez step up huge in qualifying

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This weekend at Austin is as close to a home Grand Prix for Mexicans Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez. With both of their futures in Formula One uncertain after next week in Brazil, they both delivered excellent qualifying performances on Saturday.

Perez qualified seventh and evened the score at 9 on his head-to-head mark versus Jenson Button at McLaren in qualifying this year. Meanwhile Gutierrez made Q3 for the third time this year (Singapore, Korea) and ended 10th after the last five drivers to set times in Q3 all went quicker.

You know the story on Perez by now. Dropped by McLaren earlier this week, Perez is now under pressure to deliver a solid result to boost his stock for 2014. His second run in Q3, on the mediums, got down to a 1:37.452 – only three tenths off Romain Grosjean in third. The seventh place grid spot matches his best run of the year, also achieved at Monaco. Button qualified 13th and will lose three spots after overtaking during red flags in free practice one.

“Obviously, I’m very pleased, but, when you’re so close to the cars in front, you still want to improve,” Perez admitted. “In that respect, I’m slightly disappointed – but if you’d told me I’d be seventh before the start of qualifying, I’d have taken it.

“For quali, I was just able to relax and focus,” he added. “At the end of the day, I’m a racing driver – I’ve been doing this my whole life. When I get in the car, I just forget about everything else and concentrate on my own performance.”

Meanwhile, Gutierrez is uncertain at Sauber for 2014. Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin is set for a seat assuming he earns his superlicense, and either himself, teammate Nico Hulkenberg or Perez, possibly, is in play for the second seat. With Hulkenberg qualifying fourth today there’s a good chance “Guti’s” run may be overlooked as a result, but it was no less of an impressive effort to make Q3 when a McLaren, a Mercedes and a Ferrari didn’t.

“At the moment I’m focused on what’s happening right now,” Gutierrez said. “Right now we are in Austin, it’s a very important race for us, one of the most special of my career, of our careers, because we are both Mexicans.

“We are here to do our best and we have great opportunities to do good results in these last two races. So I’m going to try to take advantage of that and then after that see what’s going to happen.”