F1 2016 Driver Review: Esteban Gutierrez

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Esteban Gutierrez

Team: Haas F1 Team
Car No.: 21
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 11th (Spain, Monaco, Austria, Germany, Singapore)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 0
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 21st

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

As a big believer in Esteban Gutierrez, I really thought that 2016 was the year he would come good and prove his worth to Formula 1. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, with the season including a number of missed opportunities and some slices of bad luck.

I had a running joke on Twitter that P11 should be renamed ‘PGutierrez’, given he always seemed to be running 11th (he spent 132 laps in 11th, more than any other driver). And that really summed up his season: on the fringe of points, but never quite in there.

Gutierrez looked more at ease when F1 hit Europe, but the early jitters were then replaced by frustration. His reaction to retiring in Brazil really summed up how sour things had got for the Mexican.

Given the 29-0 points loss to teammate Romain Grosjean, the VF-16 Haas car clearly had what it took to give Gutierrez his chance to shine. It wasn’t taken.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Esteban Gutierrez scored five 11th-place finishes in 2016. Such a statistic is the perfect characterization of Esteban Gutierrez’s F1 career – so close, yet so far away.

While Romain Grosjean seized every opportunity available to capture points this year for Haas, Gutierrez came up just shy every time, and sometimes that was with better qualifying runs that got him into Q3.

It was a frustrating year for Gutierrez, from the consternation in the buildup to Melbourne as highlighted in an NBCSN documentary, to the Melbourne crash with Fernando Alonso, to the disagreement caught on camera in Brazil. Gutierrez seems confident he has a future in F1 but it won’t be at Haas in 2017, after a tough season.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.