Mexican driver, and another ex-Formula 1 driver in Esteban Gutierrez, will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut this weekend as the next in the line of drivers aboard Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda, at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix dual races.
Gutierrez will race at Detroit for Coyne as the first Mexican driver to race the series since Michel Jourdain Jr. at the Indianapolis 500 in 2012. Gutierrez told NBC Sports’ Luke Smith at the Monaco ePrix “IndyCar is more attractive” for jumping into at some point.
The series hasn’t had a Mexican driver run full-time since 2008, when Mario Dominguez raced with Pacific Coast Motorsports. In CART and Champ Car’s peak, six Mexicans – Jourdain, Dominguez, Adrian Fernandez, Rodolfo Lavin, Roberto Gonzalez and Luis Diaz – raced at Mexico City in 2003.
“I’m very grateful to join Dale Coyne Racing, a highly competitive team,” said Gutierrez. “When Dale Coyne called me, I had no doubt that this would be a great opportunity for me to get experience in the Verizon IndyCar Series. My target is to learn as quickly as possible. IndyCar is a very challenging series for drivers, but I feel ready to take this chance.
“I’m excited about my debut races at the Detroit Grand Prix and I cannot wait to start working with the team, engineers and Honda, as well as driving a Dallara car again. I have very good memories of my successful GP3 and GP2 Series seasons with the Dallara cars and I worked very well with them at Haas F1 Team. I will do my best for Dale Coyne Racing, Honda and all the Mexican fans.”
Gutierrez steps into the car which had been driven by Sebastien Bourdais through qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, before Bourdais was injured with multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip. The Frenchman, though, is well on his way to recovery and rather quickly judging by his social media posts, and even visited IMS on Sunday morning to check back in with the Coyne crew and the media.
While James Davison filled in at Indianapolis and acquitted himself well to drive from 33rd on the grid up to the lead for two laps, he was part of a five-car accident in the race’s final 20 laps that left him in an unrepresentative 20th place at the checkered flag.
Gutierrez will be an interesting case study to watch as an ex-F1 driver making his IndyCar debut. He won’t have had a test day and will be jumping in at the deep end of the 22-car field, and will be matched up against rookie Ed Jones, who it could be argued would have been a worthy rookie of the year at the Indianapolis 500.
But at 25, he’s incredibly experienced both in open-wheel and on street courses. He did three full seasons in Formula 1 with Sauber and Haas, and won the GP3 Series title in his first attempt in 2010 – a year that featured future IndyCar drivers Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, James Jakes and Stefano Coletti and other notables such as Robert Wickens, Daniel Morad, Rio Haryanto, Jean-Eric Vergne, Renger van der Zande, Antonio Felix da Costa and Michael Christensen. He also has finished third in GP2 and has been competing in Formula E this season, having started at Mexico City with the Techeetah team, where incidentally he’s now Vergne’s teammate.
All three remaining Formula E doubleheader weekends run on IndyCar weekends. FE is in Berlin next weekend while IndyCar is at Texas. In July, FE’s North American swing hits New York City (July 15-16) and Montreal (July 29-30) while IndyCar runs at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, respectively.