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Gutierrez replaces Perez in first practice

GREATER NOIDA, India (Reuters) - Mexican reserve Esteban Gutierrez replaced compatriot Sergio Perez in first practice at the Indian Grand Prix on Friday after Sauber said their regular Formula One race driver was unwell.

"Due to the fact... Perez is unwell, the Sauber F1 Team has decided to let its reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez jump into the car for the first free practice session," Sauber said in a statement.

"This should help Sergio's speedy recovery so he is able to drive for the remainder of the weekend."

A spokesman said a decision on the day's second practice session would be made later.

Perez, who is joining McLaren next season while Gutierrez is a frontrunner to replace him in the race seat, cast some doubt on just how unwell he was with a comment on his Twitter feed.

"Yesterday I had a fever but today I am really ready to do the weekend," he said in Spanish. "It was a team decision."

Gutierrez, 21, is due to test with Sauber in Abu Dhabi next month and, like 22-year-old Perez, is backed by Mexican telecoms company and team sponsor Telmex.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)

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