Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin is getting a first real taste of Formula 1 racing at the weekend’s Italian Grand Prix ahead of his planned 2014 debut in the sport.
Sirotkin, who has just turned 18, is to compete for the Sauber team, provided he gets the necessary super-licence. He would be the second Russian to drive in F1 – Vitaly Petrov was the first – and the nation is also set to make its debut as race host next year in Sochi.
The signing of Sirotkin is part of a deal in which Russian sponsors have helped the financially ailing Sauber team.
Sirotkin recently visited the Sauber factory in Hinwil, Switzerland, and is now seeing the real action in Monza, including his first F1 meeting with reporters.
“Formula 1 was my dream. Now it is drawing closer. I am delighted,” he said at Sauber’s motorhome at the Italian track.
Sirotkin named the atmosphere in the paddock “unbelievable” but also freely admits that he still has a lot to learn. He said he feels “not really fit yet” but added “this doesn’t mean that I am not ready for it. I still have half a year.”
First tests in a 2011 Sauber (testing with the current version is prohibited) and demonstration laps in Sochi are scheduled for late September, while a fitness programme and constant talks with Sauber engineers will also be part of the regime along with simulator tests.
Apart from that he will continue racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series where he has so far only achieved modest results, a fact he attributes to “a lot of bad luck.”
Three-time reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and the 2007 champion Raikkonen also came to F1 after competing in the Renault Series – but neither of them nor the likes of Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso are the men Sirotkin looks up to.
“When I was a child Michael Schumacher was my idol,” he said.
Emulating Schumacher’s seven world titles may be a tough challenge but Sirotkin is upbeat that he can establish himself in F1 even though he is aware of the stigma of being a so-called “pay driver” by entry through money.
Sirotkin’s father is general director of one of the sponsoring companies but he insists that this isn’t the key to his F1 entry.
“Many young drivers come into F1 because they bring money with them,” he said. “I want to drive well in 2014. Then the results will also come.”
Sauber are yet to announce whether Mexican Esteban Gutierrez or Nico Hulkenberg of Germany will have to step out of their car for Sirotkin. Gutierrez also brings a lot of money to the team while Huklkenberg has the better results which generate important income as well.
Sirotkin, for his part, will not get involved in this discussion, saying politely “It is not possible for me to give you this information.” (DPA)
Subbed by AJN.