There is only one seat remaining in Formula One heading into the 2018 season. With Sauber the latest team to confirm their lineup for the coming season, just the seat alongside Lance Stroll at Williams Martini Racing is open. And while the team is still very tight-lipped about the whole process, a few names are dropping out of the race.
is now reporting that Russian Sergey Sirotkin is now the favorite to land the F1 ride with Williams. Sirotkin previously served as a reserve driver for the Renault Sport team. Prior to this revelation, many in the media expected former F1 driver Robert Kubica to be named to the seat, based on his experience and ability to give feedback to the team. Paul di Resta, who drove for the team in one race in 2017, was also considered but is reportedly no longer a candidate.
Much of what remained undecided for Williams was to review the data from testing in Abu Dhabi. The team supposedly is reviewing much of this information in their efforts to decide between Kubica and Sirotkin. While the story of Kubica coming back from his near-disastrous F1 crash to returning to the series nearly a decade later, it appears it will be for naught.
Sirotkin also carries the backing of Russian racing power SMP Racing, run by the man in charge of Russia’s SMP Bank. Reportedly that funding is in the neighborhood of $20 million, which added to Stroll’s funding would be a significant boon for Williams Racing. However,reports that many details still need to be worked out between the team and the driver.Sirotkin joining the team would mark just the third Russian driver to compete in Formula One. Vitaly Petrov was the first to do so from 2010 to 2012, followed by Daniil Kvyat with Red Bull and Toro Rosso between 2014 and 2017. Conveniently, Kvyat appears to be the backup plan in place for Williams if negotiations with Sirotkin fall through.
With the forward momentum of the driver search within the Williams Martini Racing team, some would expect that the team will announce their second driver before the end of 2017. However, the team appears to be in no rush to make an announcement, instead keeping the discussions very much in-house and out of media circles