Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin has signed on with Renault Sport as a official Test Driver in a “long-term development plan” with the team. His work will begin at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix where he will drive in FP1, replacing Dane Kevin Magnussen for the 90 minute session.
This means during FP1 we will have two drivers from Russia in the field with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat also driving in his home Grand Prix for Red Bull.
Sirotkin boasts a lot of experience in single seaters, having performed testing duties under Sauber in 2014 and finishing 3rd in the 2015 GP2 Championship with 1 win and 5 podiums in only his rookie season. In the 2016 series he has moved to defending champions ART, giving him a real chance at the GP2 championship when it gets underway in Spain this year.
Sirotkin has also competed in Formula Renault 3.5, Italian Formula Three and European Formula Abarth, winning the latter championship.
He commented on his signing saying: “This is a great opportunity for me, although it has all come together so quickly. I still can’t quite believe it. This is, however, the moment that all young racing drivers are working towards, and I am determined to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can,”
Renault Sport Racing Director Fredric Vasseur also said: “Sergey is one of the most promising drivers from the junior categories so it is great for us that he is joining Renault Sport. We saw that he was the most promising rookie in the GP2 Series last season, where he achieved a race win and podiums,”
This is a strong move by Renault either way you look at it. Sirotkin has proved himself as one of the best drivers not on the Formula One grid by finishing 3rd in the 2015 GP2 series, probably his most impressive career achievement. He outscored and outraced established drivers in his rookie season who already have Formula One connections such as Rio Haryanto (Manor), Alex Lynn (Williams) and Pierre Gasly (Red Bull). Renault have said they are thinking of the future and having someone who could potentially be a GP2 champion by the end of the year will seriously strengthen their arsenal.
This signing also means that in the coming years if Renault happen to have issues with a driver, they have a strong and capable replacement in the wings, which McLaren proved is a half-decent asset in Bahrain with Stoffel Vandoorne stepping in for Fernando Alonso and scoring a point for the team.
Sirotkin’s appearance in FP1 will likely be popular with all the local fans at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. Renault head there with work to do after a disappointing Chinese Grand Prix.