Sergey Sirotkin has labelled his fellow Sauber driver Simona de Silvestro as a marketing ploy, dismissing the former IndyCar racer as a threat to his hopes of graduating to Formula One with the Hinwil-based outfit in the future.
Silvestro signed with Sauber earlier this year as an affiliated driver, with hopes of becoming the first female to race in Formula One since Giovanna Amati in 1992, completing a second test with the team earlier this week.
However, Sirotkin, who at one stage seemed set to be set for a race seat with the Swiss team ahead of this season, before instead being handed a test driver role and being sent back to Formula Renault 3.5, has denied any notion that the 25-year-old could threaten his future with Sauber.
“At Sauber there is a third driver, Giedo van der Garde, a test driver, myself, and a sponsored driver[Silvestro], the person they are helping to reach the level of Formula 1,” Sirotkin told F1News.ru.
“But I think that is a marketing move, so I do not take it as something to be afraid of. Let’s see what happens.”
While the Russian racer insists that his focus is fully on his second term in Formula Renault 3.5, where he currently lies 12th in the championship, he admits he remains hopeful of a debut Formula One appearance later this year, potentially during practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix.
“I was actually supposed to participate in free practice not only in Sochi, but it is an open question,” explained Sirotkin. “Obviously, in terms of marketing, public interest and so on, the logical thing is to do it in Sochi, but we cannot yet say whether this will happen in Sochi or the next track.
“At the moment, my priority is World Series by Renault, so I do not plan to give preference to other cases in F1 if they can complicate my task or hinder my performance in this championship. It may give the impression that there was a lull but, in fact, it is not.
“I am constantly in contact with the team and, after the race at the Nurburgring, the World Series will begin a long break, so I think then it will be possible that we will work directly on joint activities.
“Some steps we have already decided, but I cannot speak about any others until Sauber makes a statement,” he added. “In any case, it makes no sense to talk about it because I am fully engaged in the World Series.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic