Leclerc to Sauber, Sirotkin in, Kubica out at Williams (10th Update)

Kubica's check not yet big enough
Was Kubica's check not big enough or was he really too slow?

UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Robert Kubica's difficulty in adapting to Pirelli's new tires is allegedly the reason behind Williams decision to run Sergey Sirotkin alongside Lance Stroll this year. That and his big check.

Polish sports website published an interview with BBC's Andrew Benson in which the F1 reporter offered some insight on what transpired during the post-race Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

While details about the relative performance of Kubica and Sirotkin were scarce, the Russian driver apparently delivered a superior result, and proved faster on Pirelli's new rubber.

"The main issue for Robert was primarily the speed on “qualifying" laps, during which the car has a small amount of fuel in the tank," Benson is quoted by

"Kubica, on all his runs using the tires could not significantly improve performance.

"I also received information that the 33-year-old himself revealed to his manager his problems with adapting to the new tires provided by Pirelli.

"There is nothing strange about this. Many regular F1 drivers complain about the revolutionary tires of the Italian company.

"For Kubica, however, the adaptation process can be a much more difficult challenge. Unlike the rest of the drivers, the Pole has not driven any of the last six seasons since Pirelli became F1’s partner.

"In the end, Williams management in Grove decided that Kubica couldn’t get the job done and that in their current situation there is no room for risk. Hence the choice of Sirotkin."

Can Sergey Sirotkin buy the seat?
Sergey Sirotkin needed time to bring a larger check

01/03/18 (GMM) Williams looks set to announce a two-year contract with Sergey Sirotkin.

Earlier, the British team dithered over its choice of replacement for Felipe Massa, also seriously testing and considering the former BMW and Renault driver Robert Kubica.

But Russian Sirotkin, backed heavily by the Vladimir Putin-linked SMP Bank, appears to have won the day with a two-year deal now being reported by Auto Bild.

However, former Swiss F1 driver Marc Surer thinks it could still go either way.

"You could actually toss a coin," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"One has a great story and the other a lot of money. But neither is in the category that you absolutely have to take him."

Villeneuve pans ride-buyer Stroll
Villeneuve pans ride-buyer Stroll

Massa departed Williams declaring that he was not surprised about the team's deliberations, saying it's "all about the money".

And Williams' last title winner, 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve, is also not surprised.

"They already sold their soul to the billions of Lawrence Stroll, who only cares about his son," he said.

"Even Massa was faster than Lance. His podium in Baku does not convince me as it was pure luck," added Villeneuve.

12/15/17 Williams has delayed a decision over whether Sergey Sirotkin or Robert Kubica will drive for the team next season until January.

The team had targeted finalizing its line-up before Christmas, with Kubica having been the frontrunner to partner Lance Stroll in 2018 ahead of the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi. However, the emergence of Sirotkin – who brings significant financial backing from Russia – during that test has led to the 22-year-old being seriously considered as Felipe Massa's replacement instead.

Asked by Autosport if he was surprised that Kubica appeared to be out of the running, out-going Williams driver Felipe Massa said: "The path of the team is financial, including Kubica, so it does not surprise me.

"But I don't know what will happen, I'm not following the team now.

"My thoughts are in other things and what I'm doing from now, and it's not F1 anymore."

12/12/17 Renault reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin would reportedly bring an extra $15million (£11.2m) to Williams should he be given the currently vacant seat for 2018.

Sirotkin emerged as a late contender for the seat after Renault allowed him to test for Williams in the post-season Pirelli tyre test at Abu Dhabi alongside rival Robert Kubica and potential teammate Lance Stroll.

The Russian was the slowest of the three drivers but he did not test on the new hypersoft tires like Kubica and Stroll did.

Williams already receive a substantial cash injection from the Stroll family, but the additional sponsorship money Sirotkin would bring in could give him the edge over Kubica who does not have that level of financial support.

According to Le Journal de Montreal, Sirotkin visited Williams headquarters last Tuesday with Kubica spotted the day after. The rumored talk – who can bring the biggest check.

12/11/17 Robert Kubica's sensational Formula 1 return looks increasingly unlikely to happen, at least in 2018, with Williams now leaning toward Sergey Sirotkin.

It's believed Kubica is no longer in the running, meaning Williams are set to choose between Sirotkin, Paul di Resta and back-up Daniil Kvyat, though the former is very much the favorite option given the substantial financial backing the Russian brings.

Although Kubica had been the preferred option prior to his recent Abu Dhabi outing for the team, sources suggest the Polish driver doesn't meet the performance levels Williams expected, with Sirotkin outpacing him during the test.

It's believed Kubica's outright performance was also the reason Renault chose to chase Carlos Sainz as a late-season replacement for Jolyon Palmer, despite Kubica's multiple tests with the French manufacturer.

22-year-old Sirotkin, who most recently held a Renault reserve role, brings backing worth an estimated $20 million (£15m) from SMP Racing.

Kubica could now head back to the World Endurance Championship where he secured a seat before pulling out ahead of the season opener in order to chase his dream F1 return.

11/22/17 (GMM) Williams has denied reports Robert Kubica is definitely returning to F1 with the British team next year.

Earlier, multiple authoritative sources said the Pole's comeback has now been definitively agreed, with Kubica perhaps having signed a two-year deal.

But a Williams spokesperson told us: "Although conversations are ongoing with Kubica, it is still yet to be finally decided who will replace Felipe Massa.

"We will make an announcement when we have something to announce but nothing is planned this weekend in Abu Dhabi."

Kubica's last chance at a 2018 seat is with Williams. Will his check be big enough?
Robert Kubica confirmed?

11/21/17 (GMM) Robert Kubica's return to F1 next year is now set in stone.

That is the claim of the broadcaster RTL GP, echoing other sources including France's Canal Plus that claim the Pole has now inked a Williams contract for 2018.

RTL GP says the 32-year-old's contract is for 2018 and 2019.

Former F1 driver Robert Doornbos, who is a pundit for F1 broadcaster Ziggo Sport Totaal, told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad: "I am happy to see Kubica back in F1."

11/13/17 Polish driver Robert Kubica will sign with the British Williams team and return to Formula 1 racing in 2018 after a six-year hiatus, according to French cable television channel Canal+.

The channel said Kubica will partner with Canada's Lance Stroll.

Kubica competed for Renault in Formula 1 in 2010, scoring three podiums in his season with the French manufacturer, before an injury sustained in a rallying crash in 2011 forced him to put his F1 career on hold. Source: PAP

Leclarc may replace Wehrlein in final race of 2017
Leclarc may replace Wehrlein in final race of 2017

11/11/17 (GMM) Williams is not close to ending the wait over the identity of its second driver for 2018.

Lance Stroll's place is set in stone, but there are several contenders to replace the re-retiring Felipe Massa.

The Swiss newspaper Blick reports that the favorites now are Robert Kubica and Toro Rosso refugee Daniil Kvyat, with the latter said to be promising some important Russian sponsorship.

Also rumored is that Kubica might be given a one-off chance to prove himself in the Abu Dhabi finale, given that he needs to be guaranteed the entire 2018 season as he forfeits a significant disability insurance payout.

But Williams boss Paddy Lowe said the team is not ready to make a call.

"We're very unlikely to make a decision in short order," he said in Brazil.

"We have a number of different options and we'll take our time with that and let you know when we have an answer."

Lowe says the team is poised to field Robert Kubica during the post-race tire test in Abu Dhabi later this month.

Kubica has been exploring the possibility of returning to Formula 1, six years after he sustained serious arm injuries in a rally crash.

He completed two private tests with Renault before running in the in-season group session at the Hungaroring, though the manufacturer opted to sign Carlos Sainz Jr. on loan from Red Bull.

Kubica's attentions switched to Williams, which admitted it was evaluating him, before conducting two private tests in 2014-spec machinery at Silverstone and the Hungaroring.

Formula 1 is set to stay on in Abu Dhabi for two days of post-race tire testing at the Yas Marina Circuit, as Pirelli conducts further work on its 2018 compounds and constructions.

Another rumor is that Sauber is poised to announce its 2018 lineup, amid suggestions Charles Leclerc could even be given an early start in Abu Dhabi in Pascal Wehrlein's place.

"We will do the (driver) announcement, I hope, in Abu Dhabi," team boss Frederic Vasseur admitted.

"I think Charles is doing a good job. The situation in Friday morning practice is not easy but he's always consistent and shows a strong pace," he added.

09/26/17 Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica is one of the drivers it is evaluating for a race seat in 2018, as the Pole continues his journey towards a potential full-time return, after several tests with Renault.

Kubica's prospects of returning with Renault were ended by the announcement that current Toro Rosso racer Carlos Sainz Jr. will partner Nico Hülkenberg in 2018.

Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul had stated that the outfit did not get all of the answers it wanted from the final test, before acting to secure Red Bull-backed Sainz Jr. in a loan deal.

However, Kubica has since emerged as a candidate to race at Williams next season.

Lance Stroll, although yet to be officially confirmed, is set to continue, having joined Williams as part of a long-term program, but there is uncertainty over the identity of his team-mate.

Felipe Massa was recalled by Williams after Nico Rosberg's retirement, to facilitate Valtteri Bottas' move to Mercedes, but has made clear that he needs to feel "wanted" to stay on for another year.

Massa (36), reserve driver Paul di Resta (31) – following an impressive stand-in performance at the Hungaroring – and Kubica (32) are understood to be on Williams' list.

"We are evaluating a number of drivers for our 2018 race seat, of which Kubica is one," a Williams spokesperson explained to

Recent reports have suggested that Kubica will test for Williams in the coming weeks, but the team remained tight-lipped over how it will evaluate its options.

"The details of how we are evaluating the drivers on the list is obviously confidential, but we will make any announcements regarding our future plans when we are in a position to do so," added the spokesperson.

Rosberg, who previously raced for Williams from 2006 to 2009, recently joined Kubica's management stable to assist his bid to return to the Formula 1 grid.


09/17/17 (GMM) Robert Kubica still has a good chance of returning to formula one next year.

With Carlos Sainz Jr. now joining Renault, the Pole – now backed by co-manager and reigning world champion Nico Rosberg – asked to be released from his agreement so he could pursue opportunities elsewhere in pitlane.

His best chance appears to be Williams, where he has now tested on the British team's simulator at Grove.

Williams is considering replacing Felipe Massa, but needs an older-than-25 year old to satisfy alcohol sponsor Martini.

Other possibilities are Jolyon Palmer, and even Sauber's Marcus Ericsson.

And even though Swede Ericsson is strongly tied to Sauber's owners, it is believed Ferrari is pushing hard to accommodate its junior drivers Leclerc as well as Antonio Giovinazzi.

Both Maurizio Arrivabene and Sergio Marchionne – Ferrari's top brass – visited Sauber's Hinwil factory last week, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Leclerc (L)
Leclerc (L)

A Ferrari spokesman confirmed: "It is true that Marchionne and Arrivabene were in Hinwil.

"Marchionne had never seen the factory. It is also correct that Ferrari wants to see its junior drivers Leclerc and Giovinazzi in the races as soon as possible."

Ericsson, whose seat is now in doubt, told the Swedish publication Expressen: "There are many rumors.

"I know that my managers are in touch with Sauber and several other teams, including Williams.

"We will see what will happen in the coming weeks, but it's an exciting time," he added.

We have updated our 2018 Silly Season Page accordingly

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