BARCELONA, May 10 (Reuters) - Mexican Formula One rookie Esteban Gutierrez faced a choice when he took over from high-achieving compatriot Sergio Perez at Sauber this season: take the risks or err on the side of caution.
The 21-year-old went for the riskier approach and, four races into his grand prix career, has made plenty of mistakes and is yet to score his first point.
The Monterrey native feels, however, that he needs to make the errors in order to adapt as quickly as possible in a sport that can be particularly unforgiving to the young and inexperienced.
“I’ve made some mistakes which obviously come from taking some risks,” the youngest driver on the grid told Reuters in an interview at the Spanish Grand Prix.
”When you are at such a level of driving on the limit and taking everything to the limit, sometimes I tend to risk a bit and this comes up with some mistakes. It’s part of finding the right edge, where exactly to risk and where not to.
“You can either have a very conservative approach or learn from mistakes. It’s two different ways to approach the whole thing,” he added. “I think both can be good but I have probably taken the risky one.”
On his debut in Australia, Gutierrez was the highest finisher of the five rookies with a 13th place after starting 18th on the grid.
He was 12th in Malaysia, after qualifying 14th, and then ploughed into the back of Adrian Sutil’s Force India on the opening lap in China for his first retirement after misjudging the braking distance.
That crash earned him a five place penalty for Bahrain, where he started last and finished 18th.
Experienced German team mate Nico Hulkenberg, who did not start in Australia due to a technical problem, has scored five points from two top 10 finishes.
When Gutierrez was announced as the replacement for Perez, who moved to McLaren to take the place vacated by 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, the softly-spoken Mexican told reporters frankly that he did not know if he was ready yet.
He had raced in the GP2 support series for the past two years, and been part of the Sauber set-up during that time as the official reserve, but arrived in Formula One with scant track time in a grand prix car.
Perez, now 23, took three podium finishes with Sauber last year and the Swiss-based team looked like providing Gutierrez with a car good enough to challenge for rookie of the year honours.
In the event, Sauber have struggled for pace this year and none of the five rookies have scored a point yet with Marussia’s Frenchman Jules Bianchi looking an impressive early contender for standout newcomer.
Gutierrez said comparisons with Perez did not trouble him, pointing out also that the older Mexican - who scored only 14 points in his first year with Sauber - had to wait until his second year to get in the top three.
”Did he make a podium in the first year? I‘m in only my first four races, I have to go step-by-step. I‘m building my own pace, my own speed,“ he said. ”It’s a different situation, different characteristic.
”All I can say is that the main pressure comes from myself,“ added the Mexican. ”I really don’t worry about the rest because at the end of the day I know and understand what have been my mistakes, what I could have done better, what I am not doing well or that good.
“I know where to improve and I want to deliver.”
Gutierrez identified a lack of consistency as his biggest failing but said he was learning fast and the team were supportive of his efforts.
“I‘m not going to risk doing things that are not really possible but as a racing driver you need to have a strong approach to things and to try it and see if it works or not,” he said.
“I am aware of the things I can do better. The part of understanding and accepting is important in order to really develop and do things right. One thing is to know and another is to make it real. I am in the process of making it real and I am willing to do all it takes.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)