Esteban Gutierrez will race with Swiss-based Sauber for a second season in 2014 with Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin signed as test driver, the Formula One team announced on Saturday.
The Formula One team has announced that Gutierrez will partner experienced German driver Adrian Sutil, who has moved from Force India to replace Nico Hulkenberg in a direct switch with his compatriot.
Sauber also announced the continuation of its sponsorship agreement with Mexican telephone company Telmex, which has backed the racing careers of both Gutierrez and compatriot Sergio Perez.
Telmex will remain a premium partner with its logo having a significant presence on the team's cars. Formula One had hoped for a Mexican Grand Prix in 2014 but those plans have now been pushed back to 2015.
NO SEAT FOR DI RESTA
The driver announcement left only back-markers Caterham and Marussia with race seats remaining for 2014 while Britain's Paul Di Resta is out of a job after losing his place at Force India.
Gutierrez, 22, ended the year as the highest-scoring rookie with six points after a difficult start.
“It was a steep learning curve,” he said, “but by working closely with the team I was able to improve continuously.
“It will be my fourth year with the team, the second as a racing driver, and I feel comfortable in taking the next step,” he added.
“The technical challenges in 2014 will be huge.”
Therefore it will be even more important to know well the people you are working with. I will do my very best to improve even more and support the team the best way I can.”
Sauber principal Monisha Kaltenborn was confident Gutierrez would improve.
“Often the results didn't fully reflect his performances,” she said of this year.
Sauber has struggled financially of late, with the long-established team recognising its suppliers were having to wait for payment and Hulkenberg coy about whether he had received all his wages.
Sirotkin, and his Russian backers, had been supposed to ease those financial problems by being groomed for a race seat in 2014 but there has been increasing speculation about the strength of that deal.
The team said it still hoped to bring the 18-year-old into Formula One, with Russia hosting a race for the first time in 2014 at Sochi, but he needed more time.
“Our goal remains to prepare him for a debut in Formula One”
“Our experience of him is as a very focused, calm and talented driver. Now we will continue to support him, including obtaining his super license,” said Kaltenborn.
Sirotkin said his main focus for 2014 would be the World Series by Renault, increasingly seen as a stepping stone to Formula One.
2013 World Series champion Kevin Magnussen of Denmark secured a race seat at McLaren in place of Perez, who has joined Hulkenberg at Force India.
Sirotkin said: “I will work hard to improve myself and to extract the maximum out of this opportunity. Formula One is very complex, so it is important to get an opportunity like this.”
Russia will have one driver on the grid in 2014, with GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat joining the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso team. - Reuters