The 20-year-old, announced this week as a Renault test driver, was
handed Kevin Magnussen's car for first practice at his home grand
prix on Friday and made the most of the opportunity.
He ended the morning 13th fastest, with the team's regular British
race driver Jolyon Palmer -- who won the GP2 support series title at
the Olympic Park circuit in 2014 -- back in 18th.
"This free practice is really just the beginning of everything,"
Sirotkin told Reuters before the session, without getting ahead of
"The first thing I want to do is win the GP2 title. If I win that
title, then we see, Then I will speak about whether I can be in F1
or not. F1 is for the future."
Sirotkin will be racing in the GP2 support series again this year
after finishing third overall in his debut season, ending up as the
top rookie with five podium finishes including a victory at
Formula One is the ultimate aim, however, and the Russian feels he
is now in the right place to make that happen after ambitious
fast-track plans with cash-strapped Sauber came to nothing.
In 2013, the little-known 17-year-old was introduced as someone the
Swiss team planned to bring into Formula One, possibly as early as
It seemed to many onlookers that he had been brought in way too
early, more out of Sauber's desire to secure funds to stay afloat
rather than because they had detected a rare and precocious talent.
The deal was part of a partnership with Russia’s Investment
Cooperation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of the
North-West Russian federation and the National Institute of Aviation
Technologies headed by the driver's father Oleg.
Sirotkin tested for Sauber in 2014 and took part in free practice at
Sochi that year, but the 2015 race seats went to drivers with better
"It didn't happen but maybe it's good for me because I had the
chance to prove myself and make a great season in GP2," he said.
[to top of second column]
"Now I have another opportunity to improve what we couldn't do last
year and get a title and then I am back here with an absolutely
Only two Russians have raced in the Formula One world championship
-- Vitaly Petrov with Renault and Caterham between 2010 and 2012 and
Red Bull's current incumbent Daniil Kvyat -- but Sirotkin could be
He has wealthier and better-connected backers than in the past, now
part of the SMP Racing project founded by billionaire Boris
Rotenberg and his brother Arkady control SMP Bank and are regarded
as part of the inner circle of President Vladimir Putin, who has
attended both previous Russian Grands Prix and is expected again in
Sochi on Sunday.
Russia is also an important market for Renault, with chief executive
Carlos Ghosn saying in February that the country would be one of
those driving the French carmaker's future growth as well as being
increasingly attracted to Formula One.
"SMP is the junior driver development program that covers all the
stages from karting up to Formula One," said Sirotkin.
"When they brought me here they went to another level.
"So many young (Russian) kids are growing up and all of them are
dreaming about F1...it's really good that we are getting close to F1
and have some open doors there."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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