Sergey Sirotkin, Sauber, Sepang International Circuit, 2017

Russia’s new F1 driver: Seven things you should know about Sirotkin

2018 F1 season

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Sergey Sirotkin emerged as a surprise contender for the final place on the 2018 grid and was chosen by Williams to partner Lance Stroll this year.

His presence on the grid means Russia will continue to have a home driver for its grand prix. But how did Sirotkin get to F1, and how much promise has he shown? Here’s a quick introduction to Russia’s latest F1 driver.

He nearly made his F1 debut in 2014

Sirotkin’s name hit the headlines five years ago when Sauber announced he was going to race for them in 2014. Had the deal come off Sirotkin would have become the youngest F1 driver to date, at 18 years old.

His connection to Sauber came as the team arranged a deal with a group of Russian companies including the National Institute of Aviation Technologies, run by his father Oleg Sirotkin. However the team eventually selected Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez as its race drivers for the new season, leaving Sirotkin to do test work.

He was one of the first drivers to run at Sochi

Sauber got maximum PR value from their tie-up with Sirotkin, giving him his first run in an F1 car at Sochi while the track was being readied for the first Russian Grand Prix. He made his F1 debut in the first practice session that weekend.

He’s driven for three F1 teams already

After leaving Sauber, Sirotkin landed at Renault who nominated him as their reserve driver last year. As well as a handful of practice session outings he was tested alongside Robert Kubica as the team weighed its options for 2018. The eventually decided to hire Carlos Sainz Jnr from Toro Rosso.

Williams is the third team Sirotkin has driven for and following another side-by-side test alongside Kubica at Yas Marina, Sirotkin finally landed an F1 race seat.

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He knows the competition

Sirotkin may have taken longer to come through the junior categories than planned but it’s given him the opportunity to size up many of the rivals he’ll be up against in 2018. Two years in the now-defunct Formula Renault 3.5 championship saw him go up against the likes of Sainz, Kevin Magnussen (both champions in the category), Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon.

He then moved into GP2 (now Formula Two) where he went up against Pierre Gasly and fellow newcomer Charles Leclerc.

He’s already won on home ground

One of the high points of Sirotkin’s spell in Formula Renault 3.5 came at his home track in 2014. He participated in the first race at Moscow Raceway in 2012 as a last-minute sign-up for the BVM Target team, and came home last. Two years later, now with the more competitive Fortec squad, Sirotkin won from pole at home.

He may be race-rusty

After a difficult second season in GP2 – he finished third for the second year running – Sirotkin spent much of last year on the sidelines. He did four practice outings for Renault but various problems limited him to no more than 10 laps in all bar one of them.

However he did make his debut at Le Mans. SMP Racing, Sirotkin’s sponsors, put together an all-Russian LMP2 entry for him, Mikhail Aleshin and Victor Shaytar. A technical problem cost them around an hour and they finished 16th in class.

He’s experienced last-lap heartbreak

Sirotkin’s most recent championship success came in the Formula Abarth European series in 2011. However with better luck he might have been a double champion that year.

Racing in the Italian series for the same cars Sirotkin was on course to win the season-opening race at Mugello. But as he accelerated out of the final corner his engine let go and team mate Patric Niederhauser beat him to the line. Niederhauser went on to take the title, but had Sirotkin’s engine not let him down it would have been his.

Read more about Sergey Sirotkin

Read his career history here:

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Keith Collantine
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  • 28 comments on “Russia’s new F1 driver: Seven things you should know about Sirotkin”

    1. On paper, Sirotkin-Stroll is a horribly underwhelming line-up, but it’s madness to judge Sirotkin until he starts racing. I’d be surprised if he isn’t quicker than Stroll generally.

      1. @ben-n Stroll’s qualifying pace last year was horrible (Monza aside). Even assuming he raises his game in the off-season, Sirotkin’s got to be at least on par with him.

        1. I’m still giving Stroll some benefit of the doubt given that it was his rookie year, Massa with all his experience barely bested LS, and much of the anti-Stroll hype has been because of his Dad’s money. I’m assuming they genuinely struggled to make last year’s tires work with last year’s car.

          That said now Stroll is the ‘senior’ driver on the team, unless one considers RK’s role, so he won’t have the less-pressure position or excuse of being a rookie. But as I said below, while driver rivalries and comparisons are inevitable and might help motivate the drivers while they are already motivated to do well anyway, their main focus needs to be working well together to advance the car.

          1. I certainly agree that some benefit of the doubt is due for such a young driver in his first season (let’s ignore that he wasn’t ready for now!) and I’m interested to see how he goes next year. A shame in many ways that Williams has removed the only measuring stick they had in terms of Massa, but maybe that was deliberate. I disagree that Massa barely bested him; he destroyed him Stroll in qualifying and was clearly better in the races (would have surely finished ahead in Baku too). This is Massa who was fairly well beaten by Bottas, who is now being well beaten by Hamilton. I know these are tricky comparisons to make, but at a basic sense it’s hard to argue against the logic.

            I’m sympathetic to Williams’ cause – they need cash and this is a good way to get some, particularly if it’s only for a season or two while they regroup. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they’re actually already writing this season off in many ways, in the hope of getting some good cash behind them to develop a car for 2019/20 and maybe sign some higher profile drivers.

            1. That he wasn’t ready is subjective and even if true is something they would not have known until he was there, signed and doing it. True about Massa but I was considering the points haul come the end of the season. But I agree the points tally doesn’t reveal the whole truth, case in point Max vs Danial last year.

              Logically Bottas was not a race winner until he had the car, and Hamilton is as at one with his car at Mercedes as almost any top driver has ever been. Point being much has to do with the car, so I give Stroll some benefit of the doubt there. I never buy into the ‘he beat so and so this year so that means that forever and ever he will be better than that driver’ arguments but you’ve acknowledged the ‘tricky’ comparisons there.

              I highly doubt Williams will, wouldn’t even think of, nor can afford to write off anything this season, nor do I think there is reason to believe they’ll have more money next year and be able to attract and afford better drivers. They’d have to have a much better car to do that, and if they can build/develope a much better car I think the likes of Stroll and Sirotkin could show us something a bit surprising.

              I hope for everyone’s sake the Williams is much improved so the drivers can show more, the team can show better and place higher than they have been, and the field gets tightened up with rules stability. Be better for everyone within and without F1.

          2. @robbie

            Massa with all his experience barely bested LS

            You can’t be serious. A Massa at his worst was still leagues ahead of Stroll. If it wasn’t for Stroll’s fluke result in Baku and one strong weekend in Monza, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

        2. Sirotkin is only as good as the new car can be. The driver is but a part of a puzzle that has to ALL come together at the same time for chance of victory. Williams and Sirotkin will need to find some luck as its their only chance in 2018

      2. I’ve already put money on him beating Stroll this year.

        Sirotkin is no slouch. A little known fact, but he also holds an engineering degree. Have a read of this. He comes across as very intelligent and meticulous:

    2. Williams have absolutely no way to measure how good their car will be. Both drivers will be competing against their teammates’ incompetence. What a horrible season they will have.

      1. Hmm, that’s pretty doom and gloom. Hopefully they have learned a few things about getting the finicky tires to work, and given that there are some new tires, perhaps they will be a little more competitive this season.

        I know a driver comparison is always inevitably going to be done, but really I’m sure their main focus as a team will be that the two drivers, and RK, will work to try to advance the car. The driver rivalry is, I would think, way down on their list of priorities and is I’m sure much more of a topic for fans than for the team. Of course each driver will want to outdo the other, but if it is all for barely getting into the points I think they will both be just as interested in hearing all ideas from each other and all team members as to how to get the car much better. I highly doubt that both drivers and RK will be so incompetent that Williams won’t know how good the car is and what it’s weaknesses are.

        1. @robbie, furthermore, as Ricky Johnson notes in his post, Sirotkin has undertaken a degree course at Moscow State Automobile & Road Technical University – which seems to be a fairly prestigious technical university – where his dissertation was on the process of setting up a single seater race car such as an F1 car.

          It does support what Mark Hughes said of him, which is that he does seem to have a fairly solid technical understanding of the sport and of racing cars – more so than most people seem to be prepared to credit him with.

    3. Had the deal come off Sirotkin would have become the youngest F1 driver to date, at 18 years old.

      @keithcollantine If I remember correctly, Verstappen was 17 when he started his F1 career. So had the deal come off, Sirotkin would the youngest F1 driver in 2014 till 2015. Assuming he was at the time younger than Stroll, he still would be the second youngest F1 driver to date.

      1. To date would have been the date of his debut, which was before Verstappen.

    4. I’ll reserve my judgment on his competence on the track until the season has begun at least.

      1. Me too, but his career surely looks a lot like Palmer’s, even though Palmer won the GP2 series before promoting

        1. @johnmilk Can’t possibly compare Palmer and Sirotkin’s GP2 careers; Palmer spent 3 seasons in the midfield before winning it, in the best team against a weak field. Sirotkin was immediately competitive against a stronger field, and not in the best team either.

          1. @tflb but both hadn’t a particular successful junior career

            Regardless, we will see what he can do in 2018, and ultimately that is what matters

            1. Yes, I’m pretty sure he will be better than palmer, not sure by how much; I also expect him to have a better rookie season than stroll, I can’t ofc predict stroll vs sirotkin 2018 as stroll could or could not improve a lot.

    5. I am expecting Sergey Sirotkin to surprise a lot of people with his speed this year because I know more than a few people he’s raced for in lower categories think very highly of him as do people at Renault.
      I also know that when he did the Abu Dhabi test for Williams last year he genuinely surprised them with how fast he was & that his performance in that test is what elevated him into the frame to get the race seat.

      As to Lance Stroll, I said a few times last year that the thing I was hearing from the team was that his biggest problem was getting the tyres into the operating range over 1 lap in qualifying which is why he tended to struggle for qualifying pace. His race pace tended to be better as he was able to get the tyres into the range & working over the period of a few laps & the team were actually very happy with his longer run pace which tended to be at least on-par with Massa. It’s felt that if he figures out qualifying (2018 tyres should be better anyway) he’d be better placed to take advantage of his race pace.

      1. @gt-racer Good stuff as usual.

      2. Thanks for that one @gt-racer, I also think that Sirotkin should be able to give us some genuinly decent speed, although it remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep a cool head when push comes to shove.

        If Stroll’s main issue was with the tyre temperatures (I guess that explains a bit of why he managed to impress in a wet Monza session with completely different tyres then) for a hot lap, I certainly hope that with the softer tyres and tweaking the compounds Pirelli will give us tyres that better match the cars and tracks, so that should give him a helpfull opening.

        Would be good if Williams give us a couple of drivers that manage to pull out some surprises at times, even if the car won’t be fast enough, and it’s performance probably still not consistent enough to make a serious impact on the championship.

    6. I think Sirotkin will do surprisingly well this year, he’s always been quick but inconsistent – hopefully he can cut out the latter part! From what other teams have said his technical feedback, work ethic and development work is very good so I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes effective team leader. Stroll seemed lost on the setup front last year.

    7. A part of me really wishes Stroll will silence the critics this year by blasting away with his performances.

      Sometimes talent doesn’t necessarily equal great F1 drivers, I firmly believe in driving talent matching to how a car handles itself.(Not only just in F1, but also in FE or Rally or LeMans )

      Palmer, Giovinazzi were all drivers with high expections, they were expected to produce magical results when they drive in F1, but unfortunately they could not adapt to the cars in 2017.

      Stroll has skills, we occasionally see him handling the car beautifully, drives like a boss in the rain and also handles pressure without making mistakes, but consistency didn’t seem to be on his side last year. Hope he mentally prepares himself to eliminate that.

      1. Well said. Much will come down to the car, as is usually the case. Bottas didn’t win a race until he was in the WCC car. FA could do little with the McHonda. Not saying let’s give Lance forever, but I think he deserves this season to show us more if the car allows.

    8. I have zero-interest in either Williams driver, and the team is therefore of no interest as well. Shame.

      1. Interested enough to leave a pointlessly negative comment though?

    9. I am guessing but this article may have started out as ‘The career highlights of SS’ but then had to be changed as there was only enough for a tweet as apposed to an article ;-)

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