Gutiérrez climbed up through the formula racing ladder, winning the 2008 Formula BMW Europe and 2010 GP3 titles before getting his start as a test driver with the Sauber team – a role which he held for two seasons while simultaneously putting up a good fight and winning races in GP2. Sauber promoted him to the race seat in 2013 (when he placed a career-best seventh place at the Japanese Grand Prix) and kept him on board for another season. But after failing to finish in the points even once this past year, both he and veteran team-mate Adrian Sutil were both replaced for next season. Taking their place will be Marcus Ericsson (who drove for Caterham this year) and newcomer Felipe Nasr (who served this season as test driver at Williams).
That's left Gutiérrez without a race seat, but Scuderia Ferrari has snapped him up as its official test and reserve driver for next season. In that capacity he'll be offered the chance to drive top-flight machinery and hone his skills with a front-running team, and will be on standby should either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen be unable to drive at one grand prix or another.
Most of the other teams have yet to confirm their third drivers, but Williams recently announced it was promoting Susie Wolff to the job and McLaren confirmed Kevin Magnussen was bumped down for next season to make way for Alonso.
The move may strike some as odd since Gutiérrez is not part of the Ferrari Driver Academy development program, but Sauber has long shared close ties with the Maranello-based team. Ferrari supplies engines to Sauber, which in turn sometimes graduates drivers to the Scuderia. Former Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella both drove for Sauber, and current drivers Vettel and Raikkonen both got their starts there as well.
Maranello, 15 December 2014 – Ferrari announces that, as from next season, Esteban Gutierrez will become part of the Scuderia workforce. After two years competing in Formula 1 at the wheel of Ferrari-powered cars, the young Mexican has now been chosen for the job of test and reserve driver, a role in which his experience will be put to good use in the area of car development.
"While confirming our full confidence in a formidable race driver pairing, made up of four times World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, a past champion with Ferrari, I am pleased to welcome Esteban Gutierrez," commented the Scuderia's Director General and Team Principal, Maurizio Arrivabene. "We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to Esteban who, although young, has plenty of experience relating to the new generation of Formula 1 cars. I am sure that, with his experience, he will make an important contribution to the development work of the team in the simulator. Welcoming Esteban also means opening the gates of Ferrari to a driver from Mexico, a country where the Scuderia still has a lot of fans, just as was the case fifty years ago in the days of the Rodriguez brothers."
"It is an honour to become part of the Scuderia Ferrari family, a Team with such an exceptional history," commented Esteban Gutierrez. "It is for me the beginning of a new path for my future and I'm going to do my utmost to contribute to the achievement of the targets set by the Scuderia. I want to thank everybody for their belief in my potential; this will bring a great opportunity for me to develop further and get to the top in the near future. With all my passion and dedication, I'm now looking forward to the start of this new venture."