Indeed, the 22-year-old has struggled throughout his rookie F1 season, but suddenly in Singapore he broke into the 'Q3' qualifying segment for the first time.
And now in Korea, he has qualified a new career-best of eighth, as it becomes clear Pirelli's steel-belted tyres suit the formerly-languishing 2013 Sauber.
But Gutierrez says he has undergone a radical change too.
"I said it in Singapore," he told Spain's Marca newspaper.
"Once you know you can do it, especially when you were coming from a critical moment, it is a drastic change.
"The pressure was very high, not only on the team but on me as well."
So what has changed? The prospect of dropping out of F1 after just a single season?
"My whole approach to the entire weekend," Gutierrez explained.
"I was very conservative, obviously because I was a rookie and I wanted to build from something reasonable.
"I was trying not to risk always, not to make mistakes, and sometimes it makes you just not fast.
"There came a point where maybe I had turned to being automatically conservative," he added.
So by taking a new, sharper-edged approach to F1, Gutierrez thinks he has finally turned the corner.
But he admits to dealing with some "very difficult" lows prior to making the breakthrough.
"When you get to those moments with pressure or difficulty, and you do not see a solution, and then you manage to change it, it becomes very powerful," said Gutierrez.
"It makes you much stronger," he insisted.