Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed a successful first test for Ferrari in Barcelona on Wednesday by completing over 100 laps behind the wheel of the SF15-T, finishing seventh overall in the final timesheets.
Gutierrez joined Ferrari in a reserve role for the 2015 season after spending two years in Formula 1 with Sauber, but took no part in pre-season testing for the Italian team.
The Mexican has been present at every grand prix so far this season, and finally got his first taste of a Ferrari F1 car on Wednesday in Barcelona following the Spanish Grand Prix.
“Our work was aimed at the upcoming races, looking at various aspects, such as driveability, aerodynamics and set-up,” Gutierrez said.
“We managed to complete a lot of laps and it was definitely a very productive day, even though it was interrupted by a red flag. However, we managed to make up for lost time and complete our planned programme.
“We were looking to validate the new aerodynamic package and we managed that. It was a case of understanding how to improve the car’s set-up to better suit the new solutions we ran in the last race and that’s what we did.
“It was very exciting to drive the SF15-T for the first time and I got a very good feeling from it. It will be very interesting to transfer this data to our work in the simulator, once we are back in Maranello.”
Gutierrez is already being tipped as a possible candidate for a seat at Gene Haas’ new operation, Haas F1 Team, for the 2016 season as part of its technical partnership with Ferrari.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.
It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.