So Williams has finally announced the second driver who’ll race alongside Lance Stroll. Ever since last year’s Abu Dhabi post-season test, the speculation grew stronger and stronger in favour of Sergey Sirotkin. The Russian ended Robert Kubica’s fairytale return to Formula One after 7 years of absence. Choosing the Russian received a lot of flak from all quarters – the writer included – especially given the alternatives. Moving over talented names like Kubica, Wehrlein, Di Resta and even Kvyat is in bad taste. But there’s little we can do except word out our disappointment. And even doing that will not change anything. So instead we can focus a little bit on who actually Sergey Sirotkin is.
In the year when Hamilton was busy duelling Massa for the World Championship, Sergey Sirotkin began his karting career. Born to Russian financer Oleg Sirotkin, Sergey Olegovich Sirotkin was born on 27th August 1995. By 2010 the Russian had graduated to highest Karting series like KF3 and KF2.
Sergey Sirotkin: stepping up to Single Seaters
He duly moved to single seaters and choose to race in what was called Formula Abarth series in Italy. To give you context, in 2014, Formula Abarth became Italian F4 Championship. After a decent rookie year, he stayed on for having another crack at it. But in 2011, the series had split into two classifications – Italy and Europe. The Russian started the season with his previous team, Jenzer motorsport, but switched teams after a few rounds.
Sergey Sirotkin won the European classification in a dominant fashion. He lifted the title with a race to spare. Over at the Italian Classification, he finished an impressive runner-up.
The Russian moved up the ladder to Auto GP World Series in 2012. The Auto GP World series is the same championship which Romain Grosjean won in 2010. Sergey Sirotkin’s connection with Romain doesn’t end here as he broke the Frenchman’s record in his rookie year. Sirotkin posted 4 consecutive fastest laps in the first 4 rounds to beat the record held by Grosjean. The Russian took victory in what was his only 2nd race to become the youngest Auto GP World Series race winner. He ended the year 3rd in the championship standings.
But for God knows what reason, Sergey Sirotkin decided to make 2012 the busiest year for himself. Along with Auto GP, the Russian contested Italian Formula Three championship and a single Formula Renault 3.5 race outing. In Italian Formula 3, the now 15-year old showed class. He took 2 wins and 4 podiums in what was his rookie season to finish 5th overall.
Graduating to Formula Renault 3.5:
In 2013 he graduated full time to Formula Renault 3.5. The 2013 edition of the series organized by Renault was dominated by McLaren junior drivers. Kevin Magnussen and rookie Stoffel Vandoorne fought for the title. Ultimately the Dane prevailed and won the series with a race to spare. Sergey Sirotkin, on the other hand, had a good rookie season too. The Russian took 2 podiums and finished 9th in the standings. This might not sound too celebratory given Vandoorne’s feats but it was impressive given Sirotkin missed a race and retired out of last three races. Despite his bad luck, he scored 61 points while Arthur Pic who finished P8 scored 74.
Inching closer to Formula One:
But 2013 wasn’t too shabby a year for him. Instead, he took several steps closer to his dream of racing in Formula One.
You see in 2013 an investment consortium decided to open up route for Russian Drivers to enter into F1. The Sauber team, running neck deep in financial struggles, signed up a new partnership. Russian firms Investment Corporation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of Northwest Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies stuck a deal with Sauber. As part of the deal, 17-year-old Sirotkin was placed onto a development programme with a hope that it will lead to him racing in F1 in the future. How did the Russian land up in the center of such a lucrative deal? Well, his father heads up the National Institute of Aviation Technologies, so…
At that point, it was envisioned that this development deal will lead to a race seat in 2014. But come 2014, he stayed on only as a Reserve Driver for Sauber. The Russian decided to race in Formula Renault 3.5 again but switched teams this time. In 2013, the series was dominated by McLaren Drivers, this time it was Red Bull juniors’ turn. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Pierre Gasly fought for the title but Carlos Sainz Jr. had a dominant year. Sirotkin, on the other hand, had a better year than 2013. He scored a pole and a win both on home soil. But that’s it and he finished the season P5.
2015 – GP2:
While this was going on, over at Formula One, Sirotkin took part in Young Driver test and gained a Superlicence. In the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, he took part in FP1 and posted a time only four tenths slower than Adrian Sutil. This was a good showing by the Russian I must admit. But he failed to get the race seat for 2015. The ownership changed hands at Sauber and Ericsson and Nasr got the seat.
His Formula One dreams had crashed but single seater progress continued. In 2015, he graduated to GP2. The 2015 GP2 season is particularly remembered for Vandoorne’s utter dominance. The Belgian was so dominant that he scored 341.5 points in the season whereas his nearest competitor Alexander Rossi scored 181.5 points! Sergey Sirotkin in his rookie season held his own though. He scored 4 podiums, a pole and a win to finish P3 in the standings.
In 2016, his fortunes were revived. Sergey was announced as Renault’s development driver. He once again partook in FP1 session at the Russian Grand Prix. Over at GP2, he switched to field-leading ART Grand Prix team for the 2016 season. He had a really good season in 2016. The Russian scored 3 poles in the season including in Monaco. He finished the season with 6 podiums and 2 wins to his name, ending once again P3 in the standings.
Dream come true:
2017 was a mixed bag of a year for him. He continued his test driver role at Renault but decided against competing in F2 for a third year. Instead, he raced in 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMP2 category. But by the end of year the post-season tyre test in Abu Dhabi completely flipped his fortunes.
On the back of a really strong performance in the test, along with sponsor money reportedly to the tune of $ 15 million, Sergey Sirotkin has sealed the deal. Kubica on the other has been confirmed as Williams’ Reserve driver.