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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Esteban Gutierrez

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. After losing his Formula 1 seat, then ending his quick run in Formula E, Esteban Gutierrez found himself in IndyCar for a partial year, filling in for Sebastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing.

Esteban Gutierrez, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: Formula 1 (Haas F1 Team)
  • 2017: 25th Place (7 Starts), Best Finish 13th, Best Start 12th, 0 Laps Led, 17 Avg. Start, 17 Avg. Finish

Esteban Gutierrez was a somewhat surprising addition to the field just before Detroit, his opportunity afforded largely by way of timing and luck with Sebastien Bourdais injured and Dale Coyne Racing’s pocket book also hurting after a brutal month-plus of impacts in Phoenix and Indianapolis.

Gutierrez didn’t really solidify his place in the field until after he got a few races under his belt, which was to be expected after making his debut without a single day of testing. That he made it through Detroit without any mistakes and with the car in one piece was a very promising sign, and his drive to a season-best result of 13th in his first oval race at Iowa, only his third start in IndyCar, was easily his best performance of the year.

An unfortunate accident in qualifying at Toronto knocked him from what would have been a Q2 appearance and left him still cleared, but sore on race day. Meanwhile at Mid-Ohio, Gutierrez attempted to get his lap back on the race’s last restart and inadvertently held up the rivals to race leader Josef Newgarden in the process. You can’t fault him for it as he was fine to try to do so within the letter of the INDYCAR Rulebook, but it upset the spirit of the finish outright.

An early retirement at Pocono after brushing the wall ended a good start there. Given his growth and development, it was unfortunate he didn’t have a chance to build on that the last three races, as Bourdais made a welcome – but surprise – early return at Gateway.

To his credit, Gutierrez adapted to his circumstances of being tossed aside from F1 and then extricating himself from Formula E rather well, and embraced being in IndyCar for the races he did. He has some upside, but faded from view as the silly season shook out, and entered December still on the outside looking in despite his own desire to continue for a full campaign in 2018.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.