If 11th place had been a points-scoring position in the 2016 Formula One World Championship, Esteban Gutierrez might have had a second season with American debutants Haas.
The Mexican driver came frustratingly close to scoring points with five 11th-place finishes in 2016. There were also a handful of races where he should have done better, others in which he was on the wrong side of luck. The Belgian Grand Prix was one in which Gutierrez was on for a points finish. He started in 18th thanks to a 5-place grid penalty but came through the pack and was in the top ten by lap eight. Then, in an ironic twist of fate, incoming Haas hopeful Kevin Magnussen had a spectacular crash at Eau Rouge in his Renault and initially brought out the safety car. Gutierrez pitted before the red flag was brought out and this ultimately destroyed his net position in the race.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has revealed that the fact that Gutierrez was unable to achieve a top-ten finish was the key behind the decision to drop him.
“It is very difficult but I think that is the main thing: he didn’t score the points whereas Romain has. You need to be good in qualifying because that usually helps to be in a good position for qualifying but he didn’t score points.
Sure, if you analyse everything to death you can always put them one way or the other. There are some many ways to interpret them [the statistics]. I think we, as a team, made a conscious decision to make a change and as much as he doesn’t like it we still made it. We shouldn’t keep beating that dead horse.
He needs to put the whole weekend together. You can look into races and qualifying yourself, you don’t need to ask me. You can quote me and that is what you want but if you look yourself you see it there.”
– Guenther Steiner
The results do speak for themselves, but Gutierrez may still find himself with a seat in 2017. There might be a chance for him to prove himself, or disprove the perception that befalls him at Sauber or Manor next season. Both teams will require some budgetary propping-up and Gutierrez has solid backing.