Sergey Sirotkin, who has finished both his GP2 seasons in the top 3, is one of the two Formula 1 rookies this year. Even though spending first season in a mid-field team should allow gaining experience in a calm environment, the tense atmosphere around the Williams team makes it difficult for the drivers to escape the criticism of public opinion. The Russian, however, doesn’t worry about it, as he told Roksana Ćwik during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
Sergey, you have found yourself a rookie in Formula 1 in not the easiest circumstances. What were the expectations?
For sure at the beginning there were a lot of expectations from all of us. After the car went on track and we really saw where we are in terms of performance I think we’ve managed to understand that it’s not going to be this way and we have to be realistic and this is where we are and we have to do the best with what we have. This is exactly what we have been doing this season and I think we have managed it quite well.
It’s not the easiest car on the grid to drive but it’s still a racing car and we still find a reasonable approach to set it up in the most driveable condition it can be. It’s never easy but pure racing-wise I don’t think it’s that much different from any other racing car I drove.
How was it to begin a season in Formula 1?
At the start of the year there were a lot of new things coming up that weren’t technical at all – how busy is the weekend and how to manage all the things like interviews, media activity, guest appearances and so on, and make sure they don’t disturb any of your performance which at the beginning did more than I was expecting but apart from that it was really smooth.
You are still waiting for your first F1 points, does it bring any pressure?
No, not at all. I mean it’s not nice because there are many bad things said about not having the points and so on but I think everybody who understands know that at the moment we are not in the condition to get a point based on the performance. We are not in condition to get a point even with a bit of luck, and the only situation when we can get a point – and I’m not even saying massive points, but just any points at all – is when we get very lucky and all of our opponents are unlucky and it would be a very extraordinary situation. It doesn’t matter to the job I’m doing. I know that everybody appreciates the role I’m playing in the team and the job I’m doing and I’m very confident from this side of the story.
How did the car evolve throughout the year?
It probably doesn’t sound true but we have made a big progress. The problem with that is that every team is making progress, so compared to others we have probably not made the biggest jump. But from how complicated the things were in the beginning, we sorted out the driveability and started to bring some performance to the car and improve the balance. We have made quite a few steps in quite a few areas but all the others are doing exactly the same, so we don’t look like heroes compared to everybody else.
Earlier in the year you had some issues with your seat, could you elaborate on that?
It’s all sorted for quite a while now but I had some issues with the seat comfort which was related to a few things that affected each other. But it’s not a worry anymore as it’s all sorted now.
Do you look forward to having a race in Russia?
For sure it’s going to be a very special for me to race in front of my home crowd. I do really take it as a special race but unfortunately it doesn’t change anything in terms of our result potential. If we had anything we could do, we would have done it straightaway.
How do you prepare for the tracks that are new for you?
There’s not that many of them and it shouldn’t get too crazy as in F1 you do have enough on-track time during the practice to learn the track. I still do all the usual stuff in the simulator and so-on but it’s not something that I worry about.
You did some development work for the BR1 prototype, did it feel familiar to working in the F1 environment?
I would say that my F1 knowledge has helped the guys from the BR1 project.
Do you still live near the Williams factory?
Yes, I still live in Ardington but if I’m there it’s mostly because I need to do things there. I would wish to have a usual work week but I rarely get to spend there two days in a row.
How do you feel about working with Robert?
It’s very good and it’s probably not what many people think. Honestly, he’s a great addition to the team and a very nice guy. He’s quite open to me, I’m very open to him and we can have some fun together. Despite what many people think I we have a very good relationship with and I have a big respect to him, to what he is doing and his passion to racing.
After racing at Le Mans last year, would you like to come back?
At the moment I have completely different targets. I do see why so many people like it but at this moment I have more important things for me to focus on.
How does it differ having to share a car rather than focusing on your own?
The approach in Le Mans is different overall as you don’t focus that much on performance, but rather on surviving for 24 hours, which I’m personally not a fan of. I’m a driver that wants to squeeze out every single bit out of the car and to make sure I driver as quick as possible.
You were writing a master thesis on racing…
My degree was on race car setup and adapting it to different tracks and conditions. The example was taken from an F1 car and basically, I didn’t say anything new, I was just more scientific in describing the way we are working. So that’s perfectly what I’m familiar with and probably know better than many other people, so it was quite straightforward.