[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] WILLIAMS: SIROTKIN V STROLL

Williams heads into the 2018 season with Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin joining Lance Stroll, the Canadian starting his second year as race driver.

And it’s a driver combination to watch, with both desperate to make their mark at the pinnacle of motorsport.

But while you’d expect Stroll to step up and lead the team, based on races completed, along with extensive private F1 testing at tracks throughout the world, the Canadian doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

"There’s not a lead driver and a second driver, it’s one team and we want to get the most out of the package that’s available," he said.

Semantics aside, the 19-year-old has learnt from his rookie season, and the tough times that included three-straight retirements to start 2017, and being outqualified by former teammate Felipe Massa 17 to 2, the average gap more than six tenths of a second.

SOUNDBITE (English) LANCE STROLL,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“In a rookie season, you have to expect to face adversity and we definitely did. But I think the important thing is we overcame it and we had some great weekends. And we’re going into this year with that good momentum, which is great.”

Sirotkin, though, could upset that momentum with his trademark focus, centred around getting his F1 career off the ground.

SOUNDBITE (English) PADDY LOWE,
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, WILLIAMS:
“He’s an extremely committed young man, very very intense around his ambition to be a successful racing driver, and specifically a successful Formula 1 driver.”

He’s also been working hard back at Williams’ factory, integrating himself with every aspect of the team’s operation, starting five weeks before the team’s season launch.

SOUNDBITE (English) SERGEY SIROTKIN,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“Simulator. Seat fit. Engineering meeting. Many other stuff, so yeah, it was a busy week that’s why we’re really curious to see where we are.”

SOUNDUP (English) JAKE HUMPHREY,
FORMER BBC F1 COMMENTATOR:
“Like having a proper job…"

SOUNDBITE (English) SERGEY SIROTKIN,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“Yeah.”

In pre-season testing, Sirotkin did the 16th fastest time – more than seven tenths up on Stroll – both on the soft tyre, around 1.8 seconds slower than the hypersoft, enough to put both into the top six.

Together, the pair combined for 819 laps, for the fourth largest distance in testing – so reliability is there.
And this weekend, both Stroll and Sirotkin will be itching to take first blood in what should be a Williams’ battle royale at the Australian Grand Prix.