Williams has delayed a decision over whether Sergey Sirotkin or Robert Kubica will drive for the team next season until January.
The team had targeted finalizing its line-up before Christmas, with Kubica having been the frontrunner to partner Lance Stroll in 2018 ahead of the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi. However, the emergence of Sirotkin – who brings significant financial backing from Russia – during that test has led to the 22-year-old being seriously considered as Felipe Massa’s replacement instead.
With all other teams on the grid having confirmed their race drivers, Williams has no need to rush through a decision that appears to have changed direction since the end of the year. It is unclear if Sirotkin’s age – with title sponsor Martini preferring at least one driver over 25 for endorsement reasons – and funding sources have had an impact on the change of timeline.
A Williams spokesperson said on Friday that they “don’t plan on any driver announcement until January now,” adding that a specific date is “currently not confirmed.”
While the ongoing delay would suggest Kubica’s chances have lessened, making Sirotkin the favorite for the seat, RACER understands there are still opposing views within the team on who should get the seat alongside Stroll.
It is the second winter in succession that Williams has faced uncertainty over its driver plans, with Valtteri Bottas switching to Mercedes in January following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement at the end of 2016. On that occasion, the team brought Massa out of retirement in order to have continuity alongside Stroll in the then 18-year-old’s rookie season.
Pascal Wehrlein and Daniil Kvyat have also been linked with the Williams seat, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitting in Abu Dhabi that Wehrlein’s chances of gaining the seat were very slim against Kubica.