Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn says the team will keep a close eye on Esteban Gutierrez's performances after a difficult start to the year, although she insists is too early to judge the Mexican.
Gutierrez, the youngest driver on the grid at 21, is contesting his rookie grand prix campaign with the Swiss squad this year after two seasons in GP2, where he finished in third position last season. He has managed a 14th place on the grid as his best qualifying result and a 12th position as his best race result so far.
The rookie was given a five-place grid penalty for the Bahrain GP after crashing into the back of Adrian Sutil in China.
Kaltenborn admitted the Mexican is struggling to be consistent, and although she is aware that it is far too early to make an assessment about him, she acknowledges Sauber cannot afford to waste any chances. She added, however, that Sauber's drop in performance compared to 2012, when the team enjoyed one of its best seasons, also has to be considered when judging Gutierrez's form.
"A lot has to do with the performance of the car, so you have to be careful not to start making assessments after four races, but yes, we have to keep a very close eye on him and see if the expectations are satisfied or not," Kaltenborn said.
The team principal made it clear Sauber has full faith in Gutierrez.
"We have no doubts about his mental capabilities to get on top of things and understand them," she said. "But he is struggling at the moment with his performance. So we need to try to focus on get that potential out because we know it's there."
"The consistency is not there now. Of course we can say that when you hire a rookie driver, you can't expect that at this stage. I think after four races it's fast too early to make that kind of assessment.
"You can't expect too much, on the one side, but on the other you have to expect a lot because you just have limited opportunities. And it's very difficult to balance this out.
"You have to give him a chance, but at the same time we know as a team we don't have many chances, and whatever you do in a season can have a straight impact on your finances for the future. So it's a tough call."