After a year on the sidelines as the Scuderia Ferrari test driver, Esteban Gutierrez returns to the Formula 1 grid in the new American Haas F1 Team when the season gets underway in Australia, partnering Romain Grosjean.
The Mexican returns to the sport following two seasons with the Sauber F1 Team in 2013 and 2014, before playing back up to Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in 2015 with Ferrari.
After two contrasting tests at the Circuit de Catalunya in February and March, Gutierrez admitted his return to Formula 1 has been quite an adventure already, but has been impressed with how the team and car is working.
“It’s been quite an experience,” said Gutierrez of his pre-season. “The team worked very hard day and night.
“The first week was very positive and we managed to get a lot of laps in. The second week was quite challenging. It was important to keep focused. Preparation is always the period when you experience all the problems, yet you find solutions in order to get ready for Australia.
“As a new team, we managed to put the car on track and, on the first day, we managed to do a very good amount of laps. Most importantly, we got to know the car, which is the biggest question mark after months of preparation.
“When I saw the car for the first time on paper, I was imagining how it would feel. Then finally, I arrived at Barcelona. I went out for my installation lap and after two or three corners, I could already say something about the car. It was a very interesting moment.”
Gutierrez feels the VF-16 is an enjoyable car to drive and easier to set up than some of his previous cars, and hopes to maximise his Australian Grand Prix weekend, and hopes to be able to sneak into the points come Sunday afternoon.
“I love driving it. It’s very enjoyable,” said Gutierrez of the VF-16. “I’ve had cars in the past which were difficult to fine tune in order to get a good feeling where you can anticipate, where you can push the car to the limit.
“The VF-16, straight away had a good feeling. As a baseline, that’s always a good sign. It’s a great car.
“We need to find out how competitive we are. I hope we are as competitive and as good as the car feels, but we need to maximize and optimise what we have. Our target is clear – to achieve points. It is quite ambitious as a new team, but that’s what we’re targeting and we’ll work very hard to achieve it.”