Even at the start of a tense Championship deciding weekend the drivers market for 2013 seats has continued to fall into place as today Sauber confirmed Esteban Gutiérrez as Sergio Perez’s replacement, forcing out Kamui Kobayashi, and Caterham announced that Frenchman Charles Pic will drive for them next season.
Both Gutiérrez and Pic have been linked with drives at their respective new homes for next season over the past few months and their signings aren’t too much of a surprise consequently as they will bring money to their teams. Like McLaren-bound countryman Gutiérrez is also Telemex backed and his presence in the team is crucial in order to maintain their relationship with Carlos Slim, particularly if they want to continue to make steps forward with next season’s C32. With Pic having been more than a match for more experienced team-mate Timo Glock at Marussia, along with healthy backing from his family’s transport company, Caterham look to have got the best of both worlds by signing the young Frenchman as the team braces itself for the losses from losing tenth place in the Constructors Championship to their back of the grid rivals.
Whilst Pic has commented that he has not made a side-step to another team and sees lots of potential at Caterham it is evident that going into its fourth season of Formula One racing the team have not delivered on this, especially given their mid season form where both cars were duelling with the Toro Rossos in Valencia. Also there has been little progress particularly in the aero department and last weekend both cars were outqualified by both Marussias for the very first time, with Pic himself at the wheel. However should he impress in his time at the Anglo-Malaysian team there may be a chance that he can move up the ladder to stronger teams especially if he can continue to have strong financial backing.
Gutiérrez becomes the first of this year’s crop from the GP2 field to have made the vital step forward into the pinnacle of Motorsport, however despite his dominant form in Formula BMW in 2008 the young Mexican has been unable to demonstrate consistency in his racecraft and results and is even unsure himself if he is ready. There have been other drivers though on occasions who have impressed straight out of the box, and in similar circumstances, this even includes the man whose time at Sauber will sadly come to an end this weekend when the chequered flag drops.
Today’s announcements leave Kobayashi currently without a drive for this season despite his upturn in form recently compared to his team-mate, even in the light of his superb performance infront of his home crowd at Suzuka. Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn even admitted herself that the decision to drop Kobayashi was a difficult one in light of recent events however it demonstrates today that drivers without substantial backing are finding it increasingly difficult to make it into Formula One, that’s why we have not seen GP2 Champion Davide Valsecchi snapped up by any of the teams, even after his good performance at the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test.
For Kobayashi there is not much choice on where he may end up should he secure a 2013 drive, one option for him could be Force India since Vijay Mallya has announced a £50 million investment into the team despite ongoing problems with his Kingfisher airlines. Should this come to fruition there may be a chance that he could be granted a lifeline given the team have yet to confirm Paul Di Resta staying on and a replacement for outgoing Nico Hülkenberg.