Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin will race for Williams this season after being chosen ahead of Polish rival Robert Kubica on Tuesday in what the Formula One team said was a multi-year deal.
Kubica, who had been hoping to return to the starting grid for the first time since a 2011 rally accident partly severed his right arm, was appointed reserve and development driver instead.
Williams made the long-awaited announcements in separate statements, with 22-year-old Sirotkin filling the last remaining vacancy for the season that starts in Australia on March 25.
The Russian will partner 19-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll, the billionaire’s son who made his debut with the former world champions last year, in a lineup that will be the youngest on track this year.
Sirotkin replaces Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa, who retired at the end of last year.
Sirotkin has been backed by Russian billionaire Boris Rotenberg, whose oligarch brother Arkady is a former judo sparring partner of President Vladimir Putin, on his way through the junior series.
The team did not give any financial details of the deal. Deputy team principal Claire Williams said the Mercedes-powered team, fifth overall last year, were confident the new pairing would deliver.
Kubica, 33, had at one point looked the favourite for the drive, with 2016 champion and former Williams driver Nico Rosberg championing his cause.
Williams said the Pole will take part in testing before and during the season as well as some Friday practice sessions and simulator work.
All twenty seats on the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship grid are now taken:
Williams Martini Racing is delighted to announce that Sergey Sirotkin will partner Lance Stroll in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The 22-year-old Russian impressed the team with his performance at the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tyre test where he drove the FW40 for the first time, and will make his Formula One race debut at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.
Sergey comes to Williams with a strong racing resume. As a member of the SMP Racing programme, in 2015 he competed in GP2, finishing third, and was the highest-placed rookie. In 2016, he was selected as Test Driver for Renault Sport F1, combining his role with a second season competing in the GP2 Series, a campaign which saw him finish third for a second successive year.
In 2017 Sergey continued with Renault F1, and took part in four FP1 sessions as well as the Bahrain test, gaining valuable experience. Joining Formula One as an official race team driver marks Sergey’s progress to the highest level of the SMP Racing programme, which develops Russian drivers from karting through every level of circuit racing.
Sergey has been busy preparing for this season at the team’s factory and looks forward to partnering Lance Stroll, who enters his second year of Formula One, in 2018.
Lance broke several records during his debut Formula One season, which saw him take seven points-scoring finishes to place him 12th in the Drivers’ Championship, just one place behind his vastly experienced teammate. With a third-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lance became the youngest ever rookie podium finisher, as well as the youngest front-row starter when he lined-up second on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix.
Speaking about the announcement, Lance Stroll said; “First of all I would like to welcome Sergey to Williams and I am looking forward to having him as my teammate. I know Sergey and I am sure we will very quickly form a close working relationship. I really enjoyed my rookie season with the team, and there were a number of memorable highlights, on which I’ll look to build on in the coming season. I’m looking forward to Barcelona, and driving the new FW41 for the first time.”
Sergey Sirotkin added; “To say I’m happy and proud to join such a famous team like Williams is an understatement. It took a huge amount of work to get where I am, and I’m really happy and thankful to everyone involved. The result of our combined efforts has helped me achieve my dream, and rest assured the team can rely on me to deliver my best.”
Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal said; “After an extensive driver evaluation process, I am thrilled to have our 2018 line-up finalised, and I’m excited to see what next season brings. We have taken our time to evaluate all the available options, and I’m confident Lance and Sergey can deliver the best results for the team. The Williams philosophy has always been to promote and develop young talent and Sergey fits right into that ethos. Lance has had a record-breaking debut season, and with a year now under his belt, he will be ready to hit the ground running in 2018. We have a talented driver line-up for 2018, that we are confident will deliver some exciting results for the team.”
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer, added; “We have conducted a rigorous and exhaustive driver evaluation process. Ultimately, Sergey impressed the team with his driving pace and talent, technical feedback and work ethic, both at the factory and trackside in Abu Dhabi. I’m delighted he will be joining the team to partner Lance next season. Lance will be going into his second season with us, after notable achievements in his rookie year. We have an exciting line-up for 2018 which we believe will help us to maximise the potential of the FW41.”