Nico Hulkenberg has said that it is “risky” to be grooming Sergey Sirotkin for a race seat in 2014. The Sauber F1 Team has recently signed a multi-million dollar contract with three Russian companies in order to keep itself out of bankruptcy, with one of those companies headed by Sirotkin’s father.
When news broke of the fincancial deal with the Russian companies and that one of them was headed by the father of a racing driver, it was only a matter of time before that driver got involved with the team.
Controversy has come about, however, over Sirotkin’s preparation for a potential race seat in 2014. Currently 17 years old, Sirotkin would be the youngest driver to ever start a Formula One Grand Prix in March at the age of 18. This has raised questions about Sauber’s decision to ready him for 2014.
Sauber driver Hulkenberg, who also started Formula One at a young age, says that putting Sirotkin in an F1 race seat at such a young age would be a “risky” move. Sirotkin made his single-seater debut in mid-2010 in the Italian Formula Abarth Championship. He currently lies ninth in the standings of the highly respected Formula Renault 3.5 series. As the final step before Formula One, Formula Renault 3.5 is always on F1 team’s radars, but Sirotkin’s lack of standout performances in the series could hurt him.
Hulkenberg is also concerned that there is little Sirotkin can do to prepare for a Formula One debut. Testing mileage is limited in Formula One these days, so much of the preparation he will be doing will be in a simulator, something Sauber doesn’t even have.
“He will keep on racing in Formula Renault [3.5], beyond that he could do lots of simulator running, but that isn’t real life, and Sauber doesn’t even have a simulator so that’s not an option,” Hulkenberg said.
The final option to prepare him would be to put him in the car for practice sessions during race weekends. Sauber has said, however, that is unlikely to happen.
For now, Sirotkin’s future will be decided by the strength of the team’s deal with the Russian companies as well as his performances in the rest of the Formula Renault season.