Personally I'm extremely sad at the signings of Charles Pic and Esteban Gutierrez by Caterham and Sauber respectively; not because of their signings but rather because of it would appear that the consequences of these two decisions would appear to leave Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi without a drive for next season.
The saddest part of the entire drama is the timing of these announcements. Up until today each of the drivers affected were allowed to hope, in the same way that we the fans were, that they might remain in situ for next year. At this, end of season juncture, there are very few alternative opportunities to be explored in respect of next year's grid and it may well be that neither of the two drivers will return to a Formula One team as they do not bring sponsorship money.
FIA might well be advised to follow the likes of the Premiership in introducing transfer periods; one Mid-Season and one Pre-Season. This would bring clarity to transfer proceedings in a way which would allow current drivers and teams explore their options within specified time-constraints. While it is good to see Pic and Gutierrez get F1 seats it is horrible watching two good F1 drivers being kicked out of the sport because they are not paying to drive.
I guess the essential question revolves around the eagerness of teams to acquire Pay-to-Drive drivers.
Caterham confirmed Charles Pic by way of the following Press Release:
Charles Pic has today been announced as one of Caterham F1 Team's race drivers for the 2013 season and beyond. The talented French driver joins the Anglo / Malaysian team on a multi-year contract after impressing in his first season in the Formula 1 World Championship.Sauber released the following statement:
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal of Caterham F1 Team: "We are thrilled that Charles has decided to join us for his second season in F1 and beyond. We are all looking forward to working with a young driver who has clearly shown in his first season in F1 that he has the pace, racecraft and demeanour to help us achieve our goals.
"Throughout the 2012 season we have been monitoring the progress that Charles has made, challenging us on several occasions in qualifying, and it is clear that he is a special talent. As the year has progressed he has performed extremely well against a very experienced teammate and we are looking forward to seeing him develop further within the environment we will provide in 2013 and beyond. We will continue growing together, and the energy and image he will bring to our team and his partners will be a very positive influence on the seasons that lie ahead. Being able to make this announcement before the end of the current season gives us the chance now to allow Charles and the team to prepare fully for the 2013 season and quickly learn how to maximise the performance benefits of the Renault Sport F1 and Red Bull Technology powertrain that will be new to him."
Charles Pic: "I am very proud to be able to confirm that I am joining Caterham F1 Team next year and I’m looking forward to many seasons of successful racing cooperation. I'm enthusiastic to have the opportunity to continue to grow in a team that has a technical relationship with a number of French global companies, including Renault and Total, plus an Official Partnership with EADS. It is clear that the team has great ambitions for the future: the investments already made and the decisions taken in the last few months show how committed the shareholders are to succeed and demonstrates their willingness to keep going forward.
“The prospect of the automotive industry project nurtured by Caterham Group to produce sports road cars in conjunction with Renault is another reason for my decision to join the team. I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun for the roles they have played in helping make this dream come true.
“I am very excited about starting my second year in F1 with a team that has so much potential. Caterham F1 Team has everything in place to help it move into a position to fight with a number of teams ahead. I know how determined the team is to keep progressing and I am looking forward to playing my part in helping them move up the grid."
Jean-François Caubet, Managing Director of Renault Sport F1, added; “We are always motivated to see promising drivers in our partner teams and Charles is no exception. Additionally, France remains the largest Renault market and having another young, dynamic French driver join the Renault ‘stable’ will give us further branding, marketing and PR opportunities, both for our F1 involvement and road car range in France and the rest of Europe. We look forward to working with him closely over the coming years.”
Hinwil/Sao Paulo, 23rd November 2012 – The Sauber F1 Team has finalised its line-up for the 2013 season: Esteban Gutiérrez is confirmed as the team’s second race driver. The 21-year old Mexican will be driving alongside Nico Hülkenberg (GER). Robin Frijns, from the Netherlands, who is only two days younger than Esteban, has been taken on board as the team’s test and reserve driver.Gutiérrez began his career in karting. He raced in the Formula BMW USA series in 2007, where he finished the runner-up, and then went on to win the Formula BMW Europe crown a year later. After a spell in the Formula 3 Euro Series, he switched to the GP3 Series in 2010 and stormed to the championship title with five race wins. Two seasons in GP2 followed, the second of which in 2012 saw him collect three victories and finish third in the standings. Gutiérrez was given his first chance to test for the BMW Sauber F1 Team in 2009 and further opportunities have followed since then. His most recent outing in the Sauber C31-Ferrari was at the Young Driver Days test in Abu Dhabi on 7th and 8th November.“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.”Esteban Gutiérrez commented: “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. Now, after experiencing other categories of racing as an introduction to Formula One, this is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport. The support from my family, as well as from my sponsors, has been a key factor in getting there and I am very grateful to everyone who has been involved in our project. It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hülkenberg. 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.”Robin Frijns is going to be the Sauber F1 Team’s new test and reserve driver. The 21-year old Dutchman also started his career in karting. In 2008 he entered single seater racing, improved constantly and went on to win the Formula BMW Europe title in 2010 by taking six race wins. One year later he took the title in the Formula Renault Eurocup before going on to win the title in the highly competitive Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2012.“Monitoring Robin’s racing career“, said Kaltenborn, “makes it easy to spot his potential. This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Young Driver Days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to Formula One. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”Robin Frijns said: “I'm very happy the Sauber F1 Team has given me this opportunity. I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me to join their team as a test and reserve driver. With this opportunity I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how Formula 1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”Monisha Kaltenborn also turned her attention to the team’s current drivers: “I would very much like to say a few words about Kamui Kobayashi as well. 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 final two races of the season. 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.”While Caterham has not officially made any statement with regard to the second driver, the odds of Heikki Kovalainen holding his seat at the team are now of the same order as the Earth being pulled into the Sun.
Monisha Kaltenborn's words in respect of Kamui are scant comfort to a driver who has improved massively from the charging, exciting but unpredictable racer on-track to a real F1 racer, one of the few who will get behind the wheel of any machine and drive it by the seat of his pants. I've previously equated his enthusiasm with that of Jean Alesi and dared to hope that the Telmex millions would not decide the issue. Obviously I was wrong on that account.
Best of luck to Gutierrez and Pic but I'm massively disappointed but not surprised that Heikki and Kamui will not be sitting on the grid come March 2013.