GP3 champion, GP2 race winner, and Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez celebrates his 20th birthday today.
After beginning his career in karting, Esteban began his open wheel career with Formula BMW USA in 2007. He came second in the championship, winning four out of the fourteen races and taking eight podiums. The series was won by Daniel Morad who drove a couple of rounds for Carlin in GP3 this year.
So 2008, and Esteban shifted to Europe though he continued in Formula BMW. FBMW Europe came from a merger of the UK and Germany championships. The Mexican did brilliantly, winning seven races and taking five other podiums to beat everyone else to the championship. So in 2009 he was naturally a choice for F3 Euroseries.
The season was a big struggle for Esteban, at least in comparison to previous years. He still came an impressive ninth, competing well against other current GP2 drivers including Stefano Coletti and Sam Bird. Though he didn’t win any races, he came third twice.
In 2010, Esteban moved into the inaugural season of GP3. It wasn’t a walkover for the Mexican, but he could afford to have only one points finish from his final four races, taking pole, fastest lap and win in the first race at Monza. Certainly, 2010 was a lot less close than 2011 has been thus far.
And on to 2011, where Esteban has been working as Sauber’s reserve driver alongside his career in GP2. Partnering Jules Bianchi, his season began with a struggle – two retirements, a DNS and no points in the first six races. Then at Valencia his luck changed. Finishing seventh in the first race, he won the second race and also got the fastest lap. Since then his struggle has resumed, though he’s always been close to the points, and at the Hungaroring his patience was rewarded by clever strategy from Lotus ART and a lucky move on the final corner of the final lap to overtake Romain Grosjean for second.
He is a brilliant driver, and has a good chance of getting into F1. Perhaps he will even be Sergio Perez’s teammate for a Mexican duo! He just needs to learn to score points consistently.
Romanian (and Belgian) racing driver Michael Herck celebrates his 23rd birthday today. He drives for Scuderia Coloni in GP2.
Adopted by a Belgian millionaire, Michael grew up in Monaco, so he was surrounded by racing from a young age. In 2003, he took part in the Formula Renault Monza winter series, coming eighth. He participated in the full series in 2004, winning five of the 16 races and taking the championship. He also won Formula Junior 1600 Spain, winning four of nine races.
In 2005, he took part in Austrian F3. In seven races he won three taking pole six times, and won the championship. He also participated in a few rounds of BF3. So in 2006 he moved into F3 Euroseries and took 12 points overall to finish 15th.
The next year he moved up to FR 3.5, but failed to score a single point, so the next year he began driving in GP2 and GP2 Asia. He was with FMS for GP2 Asia, and DPR in the main series. He continued in GP2 with DPR until 2010, driving complete seasons each time. So far his best GP2 season has been 2010, when he finished 16th. His best GP2 Asia series was the most recent one, as he scored nine points over four races to finish 8th – he scored points in all but one race! With the demise of DPR, he has become a member of Scuderia Coloni. In the GP2 main series this year, he has so far scored one point.
Overall, Michael’s best GP2 race result was in the second Abu Dhabi sprint race in 2009 for GP2 Asia. He came home second behind a charging Davide Valsecchi.
The two racing drivers who celebrate their birthdays today are the same age. Jules Bianchi and Tobias Hegewald are both 22 today.
French GP2 driver Jules Bianchi is the grand-nephew of Belgian F1 driver Lucien Bianchi, who was born Luciano in Milan. Lucien’s best finish was third in Monaco in 1968 driving for Cooper. He shared the podium with Graham Hill and Richard Attwood in a race where only 5 drivers finished of 16, and the last retirement was on lap 16 – a long way before the end.
Anyway back to Jules, who began driving in French Formula Renault in 2007. He won the series with 5 wins, 5 poles and 10 fastest laps. In 2008 he came third in F3 Euroseries despite only 2 wins. The winner that year was Nico Hulkenberg.
In 2009, he won the F3 Euroseries title taking 9 wins, and moved into GP2 for the next season. Immediately he prospered, coming third overall. He seems to have a great ability to adapt to new cars quickly. In the four-race GP2 Asia series this year he finished second.
Though Jules was tipped to take the GP2 title this season, he has has a lot of bad luck. After a good start, he had a lot of non-points finishes which dropped him down the table. But a recent resurgence has pushed him back up to fourth and he is likely to finish in the top three or four.
Jules is a Ferrari test driver, and one that the Scuderia have their eye on for the future. But as long as Sauber are watching Esteban Gutierrez and have Kobayashi and Perez as their main drivers, Ferrari are going to struggle to get him into F1.
Tobias Hegewald began racing in 2005, taking part in German Formula BMW. He finished 20th in his first season. The next year he finished 13th. He also took place in some FBMW USA races.
In 2007, he began driving in FR2.0 Eurocup and the Northern European Cup. He did well in the NEC and finished 2nd with 3 wins and 297 points. He continued in both series for 2008, as well as competing in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy. He finished 5th in Eurocup FR, 3rd in the NEC and 7th in the FPA trophy.
For 2009 he participated in his first Formula Two season, and also drove two races in FR 3.5. He finished 6th overall in F2, and decided to move to GP3 for its inaugural season in 2010. He drove for Mucke Motorsport, scoring 6 points for them and finishing 22nd – that’s not too bad in a field of 30 or more drivers.
This year, Tobias has moved back to F2 and is currently 5th with 91 points. He achieved his first pole position of the season in the first Brands Hatch race. He’s unlikely to catch up with Mirko Bortolotti, but his future looks good.
Czech driver Josef Kral celebrates his 21st birthday today.
Beginning karting aged 8, he won several national titles before moving to Czech Formula 1400 in 2005. He quickly moved into Formula BMW Germany, finishing second in the world final in Valencia but unfortunately disqualified.
The next year he moved to Formula BMW UK, getting thirteen podiums in 18 races – he won six of those – and finished runner-up to Marcus Ericsson. Once again he finished second but was disqualified from the world final for a technical infringement.
In 2008, he helped his country’s team in the A1 Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he finished 18th and then retired from the two races. But his main duty that season was International Formula Master, where he finished sixth and won one race. In 2009 he took two wins in the series and finished third.
2009 was also Josef’s GP2 debut. He took part in GP2 Asia and finished 11th. In 2010 he took part in the main series for Super Nova Racing and finished with three points in 24th.
He joined Arden International for 2011, and his results have improved. He finished once on the podium in GP2 Asia and got eight points overall. So far in the 2011 main series he’s had two sixth-place finishes and a second-place podium in the Monaco sprint to get nine points. He is seventh in the championship, behind Stefano Coletti but ahead of Dani Clos, Luca Filippi, Marcus Ericsson and others.
Russian GP2 driver Mikhail Aleshin – a young star for Carlin – celebrates his 24th birthday today. FR 3.5 driver Daniel Zampieri, from Italy, is 21.
Muskovite Aleshin began racing in Russian Formula Three in 2002, finishing fourth. He moved into German FR 2000 the next season, finishing 12th and then 5th the year after that. Also in 2004 he did FR 2000 Italia, which he won. He continued in the remained FR 2.0 Germany, finishing 2nd in 2005. Over the winter, he competed for A1 team Russia, but the team finished 25th after only competing in three races.
In 2006, Mikhail began his long stint with Carlin. He’s driven for them in every year since except for 2009. Driving in Formula Renault 3.5, he finished 11th in his first year taking one pole and 2 podiums. The next year he had 1 win and 1 pole, but no other podiums, to finish 13th. He also had his first GP2 experience with ART, gaining three points in four races.
In 2008, he finished 5th in FR 3.5 despite no wins or poles, having gained three podiums. The next year, he went to Formula Two for its debut year, sponsored in part by Red Bull, and finished 3rd. Fully prepared, he returned to FR 3.5 to get three wins and 8 podiums overall and take the championship home.
This year, he has stuck with his team for 2011. After a rather dismal GP2 Asia, he was hoping for better in GP2. Sponsorship problems left him struggling for a drive, but he managed to get one for Turkey. Disappointingly he was injured and had to miss both races. On Friday, he qualified a lowly 23rd for yesterday’s race, and finished 16th.
Celebrating his 25th birthday today is Trident driver Rodolfo Gonzalez. The Venezuelan GP2 driver began driving in the series in 2009, and after a torrid start to the season stands 25th in the championship.
Ferrari’s team principal Stefano Domenicali can have a happy 46th birthday today thanks to Alonso’s podium at the weekend. GP2 driver Julian Leal won’t be in quite such a good mood on his 21st, thanks to the accident with Davide Rigon and some rather disappointing results.