MARANELLO, Italy, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez was thrown into Formula One too young and paid the price but Ferrari can help him prove his worth, the Italian team's principal Maurizio Arrivabene said on Monday.
Gutierrez, who was dropped by Swiss-based Sauber at the end of the season, was presented as Ferrari's test and reserve driver last week.
The deal was followed up by the announcement that Gutierrez's Mexican backers, telecommunications giant America Movil, were also joining the sport's oldest and most successful team as sponsors.
Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne was subsequently signed as another test driver, focusing on simulator work, with some media reports suggesting he would do the more substantial work.
However Arrivabene said Gutierrez should not be underestimated.
"He is a driver that made his debut in F1 too soon," he said of the 23-year-old.
"Talented drivers must not be thrown on to the scene too early. I am sure he is talented and will have a chance to show it," added Arrivabene.
Ferrari-powered Sauber, who have struggled financially, failed to score a point this year in their worst season in Formula One.
Gutierrez and experienced German team mate Adrian Sutil were dropped at the end of the campaign in favour of two drivers who brought in substantial funding -- Sweden's Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by...)