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.