Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s often hard-talking Formula 1 consultant, has a surprising view regarding the sport’s most likely newest rookie.
If 17-year-old Sergey Sirotkin makes his Grand Prix debut for Sauber next year as scheduled, he will be by far the youngest driver in the history of the sport ever to do so.
The Russian is therefore already being written off as simply the latest crude example of pay-drivers buying their way into the pinnacle of motor sport.
But Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn insists at Spa-Francorchamps: “You can’t cut him down just because of his age and his father.”
He may be central to Sauber’s Russian rescue deal, but Kaltenborn insists Sirotkin deserves a chance.
“There are drivers who pay for their cockpit, that’s true,” she admitted.
“But many who came with backing have very quickly got rid of the ‘pay driver’ accusation. Look at Raikkonen,” said Kaltenborn, referring to Sauber’s controversial driver choice way back in 2001.
One man who knows a lot about Sirotkin’s current arena, Formula Renault 3.5, is Marko, who has placed a lot of up-and-coming Red Bull-backed youngsters in the ‘world series’.
“Sirotkin is still young,” Marko told Der Spiegel, “but he is already very good. I am of the view that it is not a mistake to promote him.” (GMM)