Sergey Sirotkin, Formula Renault 3.5, Red Bull Ring, 2013

Drivers doubt age will prove a problem for Sirotkin

2013 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Sergey Sirotkin, Formula Renault 3.5, Red Bull Ring, 2013

Formula One drivers said Sergey Sirotkin’s youth needn’t stop him making his debut for Sauber in 2014.

Sirotkin will be 18 in March next year when he could make his grand prix debut, which would make him the youngest driver ever to start an F1 race.

“I’m sure they will take him if they think it’s the right thing,” said Kimi Raikkonen during the Hungarian Grand Prix press conference. “I don’t see that age will be the problem, it’s about experience and all the rest. He might be ready, he might not. Time will tell.”

Paul di Resta said it was too soon to judge whether Sirotkin was ready for F1:

“It’s unfair to say anything about him. I don’t think anyone knows too much about him because he’s not been in racing cars too long.”

However Lewis Hamilton had doubts the Russian driver would be ready: “I wasn’t ready at 18,” he said, “and I was pretty good at 18.”

Current Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez said the rumours over Sirotkin joining the team didn’t have an immediate effect on his future with the team:

“That really doesn’t make a difference in my current season, to be honest. My focus is here, it’s in this season, and I know very well what I have with the team, what has been my path with them in the last few years, and what we are looking into the future.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on “Drivers doubt age will prove a problem for Sirotkin”

  1. However Lewis Hamilton had doubts the Russian driver would be ready: “I wasn’t ready at 18,” he said, “and I was pretty good at 18.”

    I think Lewis nailed it with that.

    1. Agreed.

    2. Indeed.

    3. @andae23 At 18, Lewis was beginning to dominate in Formula Renault UK…
      I think he missed the point completely..

      Having said that I think Sirotkin’s not just a ‘pay’ driver as most ‘avid motorsport fans’ suggest, but I believe 2013 will be too early..give him another year in WSR, I say, and you’lL have a future champion.

      You heard it here first.

      1. Oh crap, I misunderstood…cancel the first part of my comment..the part referring to Lewis..

      2. Future champion is a bit exaggerated, but indeed he’s keeping up in WSR 3.5 really well imo.

      3. ok ok we got it @wsrgo is a die hard fan of this guy so he will not be agree with anyone who doesn’t says that this is the new senna so…

        1. Dude, you’re being a bit harsh here: Sirotkin is definitely not just another pay driver, far from it. From the comments below I can see that he’s just frustrated that people seem to think he’s just another pay driver, without knowing about his performances in Formula Renault 3.5 or even taking the effort to Google him. And I agree, that’s frustrating.

          1. If he’s so good, he needs to be given the time to mature and adapt to F1 cars before joining F1. Another year in his current formula and make him part of the 4 new f1 testing sessions and young drivers test next year. Then if he shows the speed, move him into F1. If not, they should let him move up to GP2 and continue to let him test the F1 cars until he is ready. Just throwing him into F1 next season would be a bad move, and I’m 99.9% sure he’ll not be ready and will obviously be called a paydriver because of being unprepared even if there is talent deep within him.

          2. I don’t know much about that kid. I’ve just been watching an Italian F3 video of him, not bad at all. Is he ready? I don’t think so. But Jaime Alguesuari was very young (I think baraly 19) when he joined Toro Rosso and he did a respectable job for a young chap.

    4. +1 Lewis!

    5. A great answer by Lewis. I think a world champion can afford to be blunt like that.

    6. It’s easy to see why they are so eager to put Sirotkin on the grid for the next season. It’s not only the money he brings, but also MAJOR marketing opportunities. First, he’ll be the youngest driver to start in F1, and given that he’s not half as bad as many think, it’ll give Sauber a lot of exposure. And, of course, second – Sochi. The first Russian GP in 100 years. Russian investors (not to mention audiences) NEED a Russian driver on the grid. With all the local love for symbolism and drawing parallels, Sirotkin is perfect for that.

      1. I understand Sauber’s move… the bad part of it is they will have a line-up of Gutierrez+Sirotkin and Robin Frijns will be left without a drive…

  2. Kimi should know well.

    Its good to see he trust Sauber will make the correct decision…….just as they did back in 2001.

  3. Age itself isn’t a problem… it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 35, if you’re not experienced enough, then you shouldn’t get to drive. I mean, Yuji Ide got to drive and he was quite “old” in comparision to other newcomers.

    The problem is F1 being a school these days. It shouldn’t be like that, drivers should arrive to what’s called the pinnacle of motorsports and know a thing or two about what they are doing. I mean, it shouldn’t be a place to learn how to drive, how to race…

    This goes beyond Sirotkin. Recent GP2 champions have been critiziced quite a lot… maybe the way the feeder series is working is not spot on. That, no proper way of letting the new ones get mileage in the F1 races and the “pay drivers” debate (which will always happen, IMO, unless F1 teams don’t need money to develop themselves… which won’t happen) makes the situation look quite bad.

    There is the odd example (Kimi for instance), but I’m not sure what to say about this fella. Hopefully Sauber (and more importantly the russian bussinessmen that support him in this project) will hold it at least another year.

    1. On merit the choice is quick between Sirotkin and Frijn, yet they don’t seem to have the same option for F1 debut … It’s becoming more and more frequent in F1 and quite alarming. Hopefully we still got some world champion on the grid who are totally capable : Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Button to which we can add some talented drivers but which are not always consistant.

      But that’s not with paydrivers that they will fill tomorrow’s grid with interesting drivers. How many actual young driver on the grid looks promising ? Bianchi ? Hulkenberg (still need to see him in a proper car) ?

      1. Actually Hulkenberg is very very unlucky as far as the car goes . Maybe his sponsors don’t have a mine full of money . First in a Williams where he takes pole in Brazil , then reserve in a Force India followed by a drive one year later , then a Sauber move which proved very costly . It would be good if he can move to Lotus or Ferrari in future .

        1. I like Hulk a lot. Plus, I was at Interlagos on that rainy Saturday when he tok pole position :)

  4. Tbh, if Sauber need the money, they might as well stick him in over Estaban. He hasn’t looked great, has he?

    Besides, this year’s been a complete disappointment anyway. You might as well get the cash in, concentrate on next year, and hope for the best.

    Failing that, i’m still not sure why they haven’t just reverted back to last year’s car?

    1. First he needs a superlicense. However I don’t think that will be a problem seeing the Russians he’s being backed with……….

  5. I higly doubt he would be ready, he’s a talent but he will have no experience whatsoever. I would even go as far as calling that dangerous towards other drivers.

    Still I think he deserves a chance, let him drive every Friday for the remainder of the year and see how he gets on.

    1. He doesn’t have superlicense for that yet.

      1. @zimkazimka Look at my own post, ;-)

        1. are you implying the superlicense can be just bought? getting a paydriver is one thing (i have no problem with that whatsoever, especially since i believe Sirotkin is actually talented), but willingly placing an untested driver on the grid, and thus endangering everyone around him just for money is borderline criminal.

          1. just to make it clear – i actually WANT to see him on the grid next year, i just can’t figure out how exactly he’ll get enough training in the remaining time without a simulator of superlicence to take part in Friday sessions.

  6. Once again, anger fills me when I read comments of so-called ‘motorsport fans’ who call Sirotkin a ‘pay driver’ and nothing more.

    I need to control my rage.

    1. Traverse (@)
      25th July 2013, 16:12

      Judging by your comments over the past months, I’d say you definitely need a chill pill my friend. :)

      1. @hellotraverse Yeah you’re right, I guess…

    2. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
      25th July 2013, 16:20

      I understand Sauber’s position. They were in a very difficult financial situation and if stabilizing the team means taking a Russian pay driver then so be it. They had to think of the 300 odd people working in the team. Hopefully results will be better next year and they will be able to attract more sponsors. As long as this kid isn’t sticking in the barriers every weekend it should be alright.

    3. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
      25th July 2013, 16:20

      I understand Sauber’s position. They were in a very difficult financial situation and if stabilizing the team means taking a Russian pay driver then so be it. They had to think of the 300 odd people working in the team. Hopefully results will be better next year and they will be able to attract more sponsors. As long as this kid isn’t sticking in the barriers every weekend it should be alright.

    4. I’m a big fan of Sirotkin, I think he’s got massive potential, and he’s definitely going to be in F1 at some point, maybe even next year. I just hope it’s not too early and tarnishes his reputation. I’d like to see him join F1 at around the same time Vandoorne does, and go into the same team. Unlikely, but that’d be fantastic to see.

  7. give him a chance, maybe he’ll be another raikkonen! only time will tell.

    1. Traverse (@)
      25th July 2013, 17:59

      maybe he’ll be another raikkonen!

      I hope not! We don’t need another false, boring contrived driver on the grid thank you very much!

      1. That again? Ok, we get it; you hate the guy but perhaps you should consider how these wicked accusations about the most straight forward and honest guy we have in the field eats away your own credibility. Just a hint.

        1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
          26th July 2013, 2:13

          I think Webber is the most straight forward and honest guy on the grid.

          1. That’s because Webber talks more. Otherwise, they are pretty even in that particular department.

        2. Traverse (@)
          26th July 2013, 11:12


          straight forward and honest guy we have

          Really!? Straight forward!? So you’d describe a guy that displays an entirely fake public persona as straight forward and honest?

          1. No, I absolutely don’t and I don’t see any display at all. I see a rather shy and very reserved person trying to deal the best he can with all the commotion of being famous.

            And as I have said before; I see a very typical Finn. I deal with whole groups of Finns and it normally takes a long time to get under their skin – if you ever do.

            In Kimi’s case the media will never get there but that doesn’t mean he is not being his very own reserved self, which of course is different from what his close friends and family knows.

            Did you read this:

      2. @hellotraverse Why so harsh? Every person is diffrent, why should kimi change into something he is not.

        I have not made it a secret that I have no love for Vettel but that doesn’t mean I crack him down like you are doing.

  8. Nico Rosberg tested one at 17 didn’t he, and with all the gaming and simulation going on these days it’s probably the kids who’ll have an advantage over the old guys, judging by Schumacher’s senior moments last year when he wiped out Senna and Vergne.

    But I guess (as Raikkonen says) it’s like the difference between Bottas at the beginning of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. No more racing at all, but a whole lot of understanding about how the F1 team operates.

    1. I’ve been thinking: aren’t there any 12 yearolds who are fast enough? What if you strap such a kid – or 50 year old, to go the other way – in a G-suit?

  9. Why is this the first time I have heard his name? Which category does he race in at the moment? Why is there roumer of a driver change for next year coming in July anyway? Is this kid amazing? This article confuses me.

    1. @rob-wilson – Sirotkin is currently racing in Formula Renault 3.5, where he has had some good results, but has mostly been let down by mechanical problems or been on the receiving end of stupid moves by other drivers. For the most part, he can hold his own against Antonio Felix da Cost.

    2. @rob-wilson

      Why is this the first time I have heard his name?

      I guess that’s because you follow only GP2 among junior formulae categories. He’s currently in his first full season in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault 3.5 series, and is in ninth place. Two years ago, he beat more experienced drivers to win the Formula Abarth championship in his first full season in cars, whilst last year, he did a double campaign in Auto GP and Italian F3, finishing 3rd in the former (beaten by a GP3 graduate and a GP2 graduate respectively), and 5th in the latter.

      1. He’s currently in his first full season in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault 3.5 series, and is in ninth place.

        See. Paydriver. Why are the ones placed 1 to 8 not going into F1?


        1. @mike-dee Because 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th have all at least one full season’s experience in Formula Renault 3.5. The guy in 4th has done GP2 before. Only the guy in 2nd is in the same boat as Sirotkin. That guy is Stoffel Vandoorne and he will definitely come to F1 as long as he retains his backing from McLaren..

          1. That’s a bit of a strange argument since Magnussen finished 7th in his rookie season despite having a vast amount of DNF’s without being at fault.

          2. @wsrgo So Stoffel Vandoorne will come to F1 next season as well? That’s news to me (and my Avatar gives a hint about my location).

            See, Sirotkin is probably a fairly good driver. But I think there were many in his position before, and they did not get the promise of an F1 race seat without ever having driven an F1 car before, or having at least had much better results than 9th in Formula Renault 3.5.

            Nobody would have complained had they announced that he will be driving in the FP1 sessions for the rest of this season. And had he shown a great performance there, nobody would have complained if he then got a race seat next year.

            But after half a season of Formula Renault 3.5, being 9th in the standings, getting an essentially guaranteed F1 race seat for next season is ridiculous. (And I think the good results in lower formulas should be discounted as they don’t necessarily have a lot of meaning for Formula 1.)

        2. Ok @wsrgo . I am not negating or assuming anything about Sirotkin. He may be the next Kimi or even better . But what probably @mike-dee says is that if the system is based on talent and experience alone the others should have had a chance . It’s not that the other drivers are 30 somethings to reject them on the basis of age.

          However , I think Sponsors do play a big role . So we have to broaden our definition of a pay driver to include talented ones also . And again wsrgo , I am not insulting anybody here . For all we know , he may be the next big thing .

          1. The others can’t save Sauber.

  10. Esteban should be worried, it’s pretty obvious why Sauber was scrambling to get new sponsors, Telmex will be gone to Mclaren next year and he will be left on his own.

    If I were him I would be looking for other Mexican sponsors, F1 is increasing in popularity there and it shouldn’t be hard at all.

  11. Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel broke all sorts of youngest ever records and still they made some really stupid moves in their first few seasons.
    However Sirotkin will have the advantage that he will get a full season and doesn’t need to beat his team-mate in the first race. If he uses this then he can proof critics like me wrong.

  12. Perhaps the FIA need to make some sort of minimum age rule for F1 before we end up with 14 yard olds on the grid. Of course the FIA being what it is, any rule they make usually has multiple escape clauses.

    As for Sirotkin, I’m open to the possibility that he’s the greatest driver ever born. But for his own good and the good of other drivers, he still needs to put in a little more time in junior classes before moving to F1.

    1. The FIA can already decide who does or does not get a super license regardless of age.

      A lot of the same uproar about Kimi’s experience back in the day. He satisfied the FIA testing criteria, got his super license and the rest is history. We’ll see about Sirotkin, probably in 2014.

  13. I love the Pope
    25th July 2013, 17:59

    He is a teenage pay driver.

    Tell it like it is.

    1. Traverse (@)
      26th July 2013, 11:16


  14. In the end, it seems to matter a lot on who you know and not necessarily your talents, like it is for the rest of us in the world.

  15. sao paulo taxi driver (@sao-paulo-taxi-driver)
    25th July 2013, 19:40

    Ignoring the (seemingly unfounded) pay-driver accusations for a moment, and concentrating purely on his age, I don’t see why its an issue in itself; all sports seem to become progressively younger over time, i.e the people taking part in them. Football is a good example, where teenagers in the first-team are now common, though that sport (obviously) does not have the safety concerns involved in F1. Not the best, but the only reasonable comparison is kimi, and lets not forget the initial doubts some had of him:

  16. The racing world is always looking for the next great talent to come along and somehow be better than the rest. Once in a great while that happens. Statistics are against the young Mr. Sirotkin being that one. But, that one next great driver is bound to confound the statistics and the so called experts.

    What makes a great driver like a Clark or Senna or Schumacher great? Is it raw talent, developmental experience, sheer will and determination, a combination of these things? Is there something intangible that comes out at the right place and time? This is what fascinates me about racing more than statistics.

    Who cares how many titles Schumacher has won when you are watching him race wheel to wheel corner after corner with JPM? It is the competition in the heat of the moment time after time that is thrilling. The statistics add up because the great ones are out front more often than their competitors. Sometimes even in subpar equipment.

    So, will Sirotkin be the next great one? I have a feeling we will get some clues in 2014 one way or the other. Sauber has much to gain and little to lose by running Sirotkin next season. I wish him well.

  17. Dave in NZL (now AUS)
    26th July 2013, 5:50

    Keith, the photography is incredible. I have said it before on other posts, but the shots you choose are amazing. Thanks.

  18. F1 has always had pay drivers, I don’t believe it’s better or worse than it ever was. If anything I think it’s more competitive across the field right now than it was say 10 years ago. But that’s just me.

  19. The drivers clearly were afraid to speak their minds because of sponsor interests, it’s getting pretty pathetic now.

  20. They should ask Mark Webber. Haha

  21. I don’t think the question is whether Sirotkin will be ready for F1in 2014. He clearly won’t – he just hasn’t got enough experience under his belt. Hamilton’s comment emphasizes that.

    The real question is, can Sauber grab all the advantages of getting in bed with the Russians and at the same time keep the pressure off Sirotkin for at least a season, maybe two? The kid will need a lot of breaks. Sauber can’t expect too much of him in 2014 and probably 2015. The kid has a lot to learn!

  22. I get it if it was GP2 / GP3 but F1, I don’t he will be ready to race against the big guns

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