Esteban Gutierrez: Monster Mash from Mexico
Shooting's loss was motor racing's gain, as in Jackie Stewart. Rowing's loss was motor racing's gain, as in Graham Hill. Now, all indications are basketball's loss will be the next great motor racing gain, as in Esteban Gutierrez.
The young man from Monterrey, Mexico, was born on August 5, 1991. His first love was basketball and he excelled in that also. An injury on the court brought him into the cockpit of a racing car.
His first race was a karting event in November 2004 at the Autodromo de Monterrey.
And Gutierrez was good to go, the talent and speed was obvious right from the start. The following year he was Mexican Rotax Max Champion in junior class.
Still only sweet sixteen, this racing prodigy has already made a splash on both sides of the Atlantic.
Miller High Life. Gutierrez served notice of his massive talents in his rookie season last year in Formula BMW USA.
After success in karting in his native country, Esteban made his single seater debut in dynamic style at the sprawling Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, winning pole positions for both the opening races of the 2007 Formula BMW USA season.
Equally impressive was his win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the support race to the United States Grand Prix, making him the only Mexican to win at the famed Brickyard.
He recalls, "I had a big fight with (Daniel) Morad all season long. Good and fair fights, we did not have any contacts. I really learned a lot, things you are going to take in future not only in your racing career but as a person in life."
He certainly knew the way in San Jose, in the California street event supporting the now defunct Champ Car series, Gutierrez started dead last and hustled his way to a very respectable fourth place finish. At his favorite US circuit, Road America, he almost achieved the impossible, starting again from back of the field he stormed through to finish second, .004s behind race winner Alexander Rossi.
Gutierrez grabbed Rookie of the Year honors with overall second place in the championship, scoring four wins and nine poles, including six in a row, from 14 starts.
Monterrey to Madrid. Operating in the European theater this season Esteban is based in the Spanish capital, Madrid, and thanks to a year of study in France also speaks French.
He is the star driver of very successful German based Josef Kaufmann Racing team.
Esteban explains, "I am pleased with Kaufmann Racing. This team is different, it's like a family. Lars is the son of the owner, Josef, who is the engineer of all three cars. I really like the chemistry between us and working with them."
Gutierrez is partnered by German Marco Wittman, an ex-Willi Weber prot?g? and British rookie Kazeem Manzur.
After podium finishes in the opening two races in Barcelona, the Gutierrez blitzkrieg is full steam ahead. Since then he is unbeaten in six races in a row, two each at Zolder, Silverstone and Hockenheim. At the recent German round, Gutierrez had a clean sweep, two wins, two poles and two fastest laps.
The Kaufmann team is enjoying the Mexican Hat Dance with every race as their new charge has electrified the team and given them a huge lead in the championship. Esteban is the only driver to be on the podium in each and every event so far this season. His six consecutive wins also breaks Kaufmann team's previous record of five straight wins.
The Esteban entourage, mom Clara and dad Roberto, travel to all the races and are fully behind the efforts of their Speedy Gutierrez. The youngster is aware and deeply appreciative of their sacrifices for him to pursue his goal of reaching Formula 1.
He said, "The support of my family has been fundamental part of the success that we have achieved. I give thanks to God for this incredible opportunity."
Chemistry between the drivers?
"We are getting to know each other, there is competition between us but I always try to learn something from every driver."
As an example, he cites data from his teammate Kazeem from the first race in Barcelona. "He made a very, very good start and I analyzed the data and that helped me in the second race. If you work as a team and get those little details you can really make the whole team push, not just one driver, and be strong."
Main thing pushing Esteban is his burning desire to succeed and represent Mexico in a winning way on the world motor racing scene.
Esteban said, "I will give it my best to put the name of Mexico up high, and with faith in God to keep reaping successes for my people and this beautiful land where I was born 16 years ago."
Editor's note: Nasir Hameed is a California based free-lance journalist and a regular contributor on www.f1weekly.com podcast.