Sauber has run with virtually no sponsorship this season and that has been evident due to the mostly white blank spaces on the car. However, Peter Sauber knows that this cannot continue and he has confidence that the situation will not carry over into 2011. Sauber said to Autosport, "I believe that we will be at a competitive level. There is a good possibility for new partners and we are working very hard on that. We're sure we will have more colour on the car next year. I don't know what basic colour - it depends on the sponsor."
I know what you are thinking: every time that something is for sale in F1 or anytime a potiential sponsor is mentioned, the name of Carlos Slim and Telmex is included in the discussion. We all remember the rumoured secret meetings in Brackley regarding the Honda purchase.
But, perhaps this time there is something to it. Sauber announced today that they had added GP3 champion Esteban Gutièrrez as their third driver. He will attend his first test after the Abu Dhabi race in November. Gutièrrez has been a guest of the team several times in 2010 and has had full access to the team's radios and their technical debriefs. Sauber said that the 19 year old driver made himself popular with his team, “Esteban is extremely mature for his age, and it has been a great pleasure to have him with us a great deal of the time this year as an affiliated driver. The team was rooting for him during his intelligent fighting performances in the GP3 Series. We are confident he will continue to develop strongly. With his modest manner and keen desire to learn, he has also made himself very popular among the team.”
As an affiliated driver, Gutièrrez had open access to the pit garage, the pit radio and the technical briefings. He said, “That way I learnt a great deal about the professionalism and practical procedures in the Formula One team,” says the Mexican. “Plus, in early September I had an opportunity to attend the team’s fitness camp with the two team drivers. Formula One is my ambition, and I’m really grateful to Peter Sauber for his confidence in me and my ability.”
Of course he also won 5 of 16 GP3 races and secured the GP3 championship for his team, ART.
One of his current sponsors is Telmex, as can be seen on his racing overalls and on his car. The thoughts are that Telmex will want to continue sponsoring Esteban in his eventual march to Formula 1. This makes good sense to me as Esteban is the best prospect out of Mexico in a long time. He has a Formula BMW championship as well as his GP3 championship. Telmex has expanded over the years to include 7 South American countries under its telecom umbrella and also has investments in the US via their affliation with Southwest Bell Telephone.
Also of interest is that Gutièrrez is from the Mexican state of Nuevo León which shares a border with the US state of Texas, future home of the USGP. I know a number of Mexican F1 fans and meet up with them regularly at Montreal (and Indy in the past). They are very excited about this agreement and are certain to see Gutièrrez in F1 in the near future. Perhaps their first chance to see him race F1 in person will be the 2012 USGP in Austin, Texas.
Sounds good to me.