Former Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin has revealed he is still struggling with the realisation his Formula 1 career is over, over a year after his exit from the sport.
Speaking to Autosport at the launch of his karting academy in Moscow, the 24-year-old Russian revealed his continued inability to find a drive after one disappointing season with Williams in 2018 has left him feeling more disheartened than ever.
“I’d say it’s become maybe even more painful,” Sirotkin admitted.
“Because at that point of course Williams wasn’t the most competitive, I knew that for the next year the situation probably wouldn’t change dramatically.
“[We thought] that having this gap year we’d maybe have the chance to find a better option than trying to fight Robert [Kubica] for that seat.”
Scoring one point in 21 grands prix in 2018, offers of a race seat were not forthcoming in his year away.
“Having harboured some rather high hopes, high expectations, and even having had some initial agreements [in my first year in F1], and in the end you didn’t achieve your target – having then lost a further year, you realise that to make it [back to the grid] for the following year will be even tougher.
“And like that you realise that you’ve probably let the goal slip away forever.
“And, to be honest, when you don’t think about it it doesn’t really hurt, but every day it happens that you’re reminded about it, and it’s really- I don’t know, I’m not emotionless about it, it’s not the least important thing in my life, so for me it’s always been quite painful and will remain that way.”
To his credit, Sirotkin conceded his situation was “characteristic of the sport”, but that didn’t make it any easier.
“I’m very self-critical, and to realise at 23-24 that what you’ve worked towards all your life hasn’t worked out, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
Nevertheless, his reserve driver role with Renault and McLaren kept him in the paddock during the 2019 season, which he maintains was better than being “home on the couch”.
“In the beginning I thought it would be [harder]. I thought, when you’re watching it from Moscow, you’ve already forgotten a bit what Formula 1 is like, you’ve distracted yourself and it’s all okay.
“And then you’re back in the paddock, everything is familiar, you’re involved, but you don’t have a car, you’re not doing much, you’re still watching the races on TV or on the computer, and at some point I thought this may be harder to accept.
“But then I missed one race due to a passport delay, and after that I realised that I do prefer to fly in, to remain in that system in one way or another, to remain in touch with the people I know, rather than watch it from home on the couch.”
Yet to announce his racing plans for 2020, Sirotkin intends to take a hands-on approach with his new academy, using coaching as a way to channel his passion away from the F1 grid.