Gutierrez to Partner Hulkenberg at Sauber in 2013

Esteban Gutiérrez will make the step-up from reserve to race driver at Sauber next season and will become team-mate to Nico Hülkenberg, who is joining from Force India.

The Mexican, who took the GP3 championship in 2010 and finished third in the GP2 standings this year, has been part of the Sauber set-up for a number of seasons.

The team also announced that Robin Frijns, who took part in the young-driver test in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago, will join the team as test and reserve driver.

This news also confirms that there will be no place for Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber in 2013. The Japanese driver, who has been with the team for three years, will now have to hunt elsewhere for a drive next season. Sergio Perez is heading to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton.

“After three years working with Sauber I feel very grateful for all the attention I have received from everyone in the team and for all their input, which has allowed me to develop into a Formula One driver in a very progressive way,” said Gutiérrez. “This is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport.

“It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hülkenberg,” added the 21-year-old. “He will be a good reference point for me and will push me to adapt quickly to F1 competition so we can develop the car together with the team in the best way.”

“Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely,” said team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. “In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step.

“Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap. We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez.”

Kaltenborn also paid tribute to the two drivers who would be leaving after this weekend’s season finale in Brazil.

“I would very much like to say a few words about Kamui Kobayashi,” she said. “Over the last three years Kamui has shown us he is not only a fierce competitor on the track, but also a wonderful person and fantastic team player. Every member of our team has the greatest respect for him, and his podium in Japan was a particularly emotional moment for all of us.

“This has not been an easy decision for us to take, but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning and our time with Kamui will come to an end after the [race in Brazil]. We wish Kamui all the best for the future.

Our thanks also go to Sergio Pérez, who has claimed three podiums for the team so far and now has the opportunity at McLaren-Mercedes to display his immense talent with one of the most successful teams in Formula One history. We would also like to wish Sergio all the best and every success for the future.”