By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
With the FIA Formula One World Championship season just two months away, Williams Martini Racing has finally announced the driver that will join sophomore Lance Stroll to complete their 2018 lineup.
The team announced Tuesday that Sergey Sirotkin will be their replacement for the retired Felipe Massa, noting that the 22-year-old’s performance in the FW40 as part of last year’s Abu Dhabi Pirelli tyre test impressed the organization and ultimately earned him the ride.
“We have conducted a rigorous and exhaustive driver evaluation process,” Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe said in a team release. “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”
A native of Russia, Sirotkin comes to Williams after two seasons in the GP2 Series, where he managed two finishes of third in the championship standings with SMP Racing. The young prospect also spent two years as a test driver for Renault Sport F1, assisting the team in FP1 sessions and testing at Bahrain in 2017.
Sirotkin will make his F1 debut in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 25.
“To say I’m happy and proud to join such a famous team like Williams is an understatement,” Sirotkin said. “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.”
The addition of Sirotkin comes at the expense of 33-year-old F1 veteran Robert Kubica, who was the early favorite to join the team but ultimately fell short of Sirotkin. The Polish ace has instead signed on with the team as a reserve and development driver, where he will assist with testing and take part in race weekend practice sessions.
Despite the comparative inexperience, Deputy Team Principle Claire Williams expressed confidence that Sirotkin and Stroll can lead Williams to success in 2018.
“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,” Williams said. “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.”
Stroll also chimed in on his new teammate, saying “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.”
The details of Sirotkin’s contract – including length and financial incentives – weren’t made available in the release, though it is speculated to be a two year deal.