Esteban Gutierrez believes that his strong run to 11th in the Spanish Grand Prix was "like a victory" after his poor start to the season.
The Sauber rookie had been under pressure having failed to score a point in his first four grands prix. But he finished only three tenths of a second off the points in Spain despite starting 19th thanks to a grid penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen. He also led a grand prix for the first time, as well as claiming his first fastest lap in Formula 1.
"It was a very special weekend for me," said Gutierrez. "I want to thank the team because they have given me the patience, the communication and the tools to improve as a driver. This is very important after the four races in which we didn't get what we wanted.
"We came to the fifth race trying to get a point, but in the end [11th] was what we could get and even though we didn't get a point, it feels a little bit like victory. It was a most important step forward from a personal point of view."
The Sauber team shared Gutierrez's enthusiasm about his performance. Chief designer Matt Morris believes that the Mexican's improving form is the result of gaining experience.
"We couldn't have asked for much more from him," Morris said. "He set some good times in the race and was leading at one point, which will do him the world of good.
"We never really doubted his pace, he has clearly shown he's fast enough but it's just that race weekend experience and race craft can only be gained by being out there.
"He put himself under a lot of pressure in the first few races and we have put him under a lot of pressure. He has made some mistakes, but [in Spain] he did not make a mistake all weekend.
"No mistakes, good pit stops, good racing – we are pleased with him."