Sergey Sirotkin has set his sights on running for Sauber in Friday practice sessions later this year, ahead of a possible race debut with the team in 2014.
Sauber announced on Monday that as part of a deal with new Russian partners, Sirotkin was being lined up as a potential race driver for the team next year. Eager to make sure he is as prepared as possible, Sirotkin’s manager Nikolay Vetrov has revealed that the plan is to get the youngster in to an F1 car later this year.
“Our target is simple,” Vetrov said. “We want to be sure we do everything possible to make him ready for his debut in Formula 1 in 2014. We are preparing a package of measures, and in particular I can confirm that we will see Sergey in some Friday free practices [this year].”
Sirotkin’s hopes of being allowed to take in a Friday practice session will depend on him being granted a mandatory superlicense, however. To qualify automatically for one, he would need to win this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship, in which he currently lies eighth.
However, the FIA’s regulations do permit drivers to get a superlicense if they are “judged by the FIA to have consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seater formula cars.” This would also require Sirotkin to drive at least 300km in a current F1 car at racing speed, not more than 90 days prior to his application for a superlicense.
With him not taking part in this week’s young driver test, it is not clear if there will be another opportunity to him to get that running later this season.
Although Sirotkin is only 17 years old, Vetrov has no doubts that he has the maturity to be able to cope with life in F1.
“I have known Sergey since he was 10, and I’m absolutely sure that he is far ahead of boys who are the same age in terms of self-development: both physically and mentally.
“That makes me believe he can manage the task in front of him. For us it was not an easy decision, but we have weighed up all the pros and cons, and we understood that someone had to make this step. So we decided to do it ourselves.”
Aleksander Kabanovsky is editor of AUTOSPORT’s Russian site