TORONTO, Ontario — With Esteban Gutierrez having street course experience in Formula 1, it was believed he could score his first career Verizon IndyCar Series top-10 at the Honda Indy Toronto. Unfortunately, the weekend did not play out as smoothly as hoped.
The Dale Coyne Racing driver struggled through the practices, going into a couple of the run-off areas as he tried to negotiate the tight corners of Ontario’s capital city. In qualifying, it only got worse as he made significant contact with the wall through the last section of the course, resulting in massive damage to his No. 18 Honda.
The crew made repairs, and Gutierrez was medically cleared to drive on Sunday morning, starting from the tail of the 21-car field. He would perform better throughout the 85-lap event, not going off course at all as he climbed the leader board, crossing the finish line in 14th.
Despite a rough start to the weekend, Gutierrez came away with a positive outlook, pleased with how his lap times got better throughout the race.
“We fell back a little bit with the crash in qualifying, but looking at the pace, looking at how the race went on, we can take some positives from that,” he said. “I want to thank the team because it was a big job to build up the car. I appreciate all their effort and all their work. Today the car was really good, and everything was working well. To put together a car from scratch and to put it on the track and to have everything running well, it’s quite challenging so thank you to them.”
While he has yet to place in the top-10, he has shown improvement each week as he continues to sub for the injured Sebastien Bourdais, highlighted by his 13th-place finish last weekend at Iowa Speedway in his first race on an oval. Bourdais was at the track this weekend, offering tips of advice for his teammate.
Bourdais spoke highly of Guiterrez on Thursday, saying he has done well for being thrown into the deep end of the pool.
“It’s tough when you’re a rookie in the series with the depth of this field and everything,” Bourdais told POPULAR SPEED. “I think he’s done well, because first of all, he hasn’t made any mistakes, and making steady progress. You can’t expect to throw a guy like that in the middle of the season with no oval experience, no experience in the car, and new tracks – partially, that first weekend in Detroit. People were starting to judge him and everything. Well, you people forget the density of the field and the fact that it’s one of the hardest tracks of the whole season. It was very unfair to him.
“But in the meantime, I think he’s enjoying the experience and learning and taking his time. I think he’s here to stay. He seems to be enjoying the series, the format, and the car, and the racing. So he did well at Iowa for the first race at an oval, and hopefully, he can keep making progress like that and do well.”
If Bourdais returns before the completion of the season, Dale Coyne Racing has already stated they will field three cars, so both Gutierrez and Bourdais can compete, along with their teammate Ed Jones.
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