The Williams F1 team have finally confirmed Lance Stroll’s 2018 teammate. Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin beat Robert Kubica to the final seat on the Formula 1 grid. The 22-year-old brings considerable sponsorship money to the team and completes the 20-driver field for next season. The Russian and the 19-year-old Canadian are the youngest line-up in the sport.
Sirotkin has no racing experience in F1 apart from a few Friday practice sessions for Renault in 2017. Kubica was on course to complete a sensational comeback to full-time F1, seven years after a horrific rallying accident. However, new evidence showed that Sirotkin outperformed the Pole when they tested the Williams 2017 car in Abu Dhabi in November.
Technical chief Paddy Lowe said, “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.”
Other potential recruits included Daniil Kvyat, Paul Di Resta and Pascal Wehrlein. Now, Kvyat is a Ferrari reserve driver, Di Resta was participating in the Formula E rookie test in Marrakesh and Wehrlein is set to return to DTM.
Sirotkin has held test driver roles at Sauber and Renault before. However, he was not in the running for the Williams seat until the Abu Dhabi call-up and subsequent outing. Meanwhile, Kubica has been confirmed as the reserve and development driver for Williams.
William deputy team principal Claire Williams 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.”
Williams finished fifth in the 2017 Constructors’ Championship but some are concerned about the inexperienced line-up. Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, ex Formula One driver himself, said, “Sirotkin-Stroll is not a strong line-up. There’s no clear team leader, they’re young and inexperienced and that’s a difficult one to go forward with, engineering wise and sponsorship wise. I would be very concerned for Williams with that line-up.”