Russian Sergey Sirotkin set to become youngest ever grand prix driver in 2014 15 July, 2013 Sergey Sirotkin receives big career boost with new Sauber deal Little known Russian racing driver 17 year old Sergey Sirotkin is on track to become the youngest ever Formula 1 debutant in the wake of investment by a Russian consortium in the Sauber team. The inclusion of Formula Renault driver Sirotkin in a specially formed driver development programme with the Swiss team at the behest of Russian investors, has prompted speculation that the young Russian will be fast-tracked onto the F1 grid A statement released by Sauber announced, “In particular, a development programme will be set up for the Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin to prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014.” Should Sirotkin secure a race seat with the Sauber team – as intimated in the statement – he will be 18 years old when the 2014 season gets under way, thus making him the youngest ever driver to start a grand prix. The current youngest F1 driver record is held by Jaime Alguersuari who was 19 when he made his debut for Toro Rosso at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. Although unlikely that Sirotkin will drive at the forthcoming Young Driver Test at Silverstone, he will reportedly be present in what will be his first assignment as a Sauber F1 development driver – as an observer – for what will be part of his acclimatisation process with the team. Sergey Sirotkin during the 2013 Formula Reanult race at Monaco This is the first step of what is expected to be a concerted programme by Sauber, and their new partners, to attract and develop young Russian motor racing talent. Sirotkin won the Formula Abarth European Series and has experience in Italian Formula 3 and the AutoGP World Series, while this year he is eighth in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship. However insiders report that his junior career has not been stellar, although it should be borne in mind that he has more often than not been the youngest driver on the grid in the series which he has competed. One of the main reasons to fast-track Sirotkin into Formula 1 is the advent of the first ever Russian Grand Prix scheduled to take place next year at the Sochi Olympic Park Circuit. A Russian driver on the grid would naturally bolster public interest in the race. Bernie Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin in 2010 during Russian GP signing ceremony However it has been reported that the country’s inaugural grand prix may be pushed back to 2015 if the International Olympic Committee believes that preparations for the race will interfere with the Winter Olympics. But the word in Moscow indicates that President Vladimir Putin, who signed the Russian GP deal with Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone in 2010, is adamant that the race will happen even if an alternative venue has to be found. The Sauber ‘rescue package’ is backed by several Russian concerns of which one is the National Institute of Aviation Technologies headed up by young Sirotkin’s father Oleg Sirotkin. Vitaly Petrov was the first, and as yet only, Russian driver to race in F1. He started 57 grand prix races with Lotus and Caterham from 2010 and 2012. It is not yet known if Petrov will benefit from the latest Russian investment with Sauber. (GP247) Subbed by AJN.