Monday's announcement that Sauber has reached agreement with three Russian partners to secure its immediate F1 future came with the caveat that it provides a development programme for a particular Russian driver.
Despite being only 17, Sergey Sirotkin is already competing in Formula Renault 3.5, and now appears set to be fast-tracked into the top flight sooner rather than later, given that Sauber's confirmation of the deal with the Investment Cooperation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies revealed that the development programme would 'prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014'.
While the statement could be read in a couple of ways, it is likely that Sirotkin – the son International Institute of Aviation Technologies head Oleg Sirotkin – could be propelled into the F1 line-up sooner rather than later, at the obvious expense of either Nico Hulkenberg or Esteban Gutierrez.
While it would make sense to have a Russian on the grid when F1 makes its world championship bow at Sochi late in 2014 – an ambition long held by former Renault, Lotus and Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov – Sirotkin is not necessarily the most obvious candidate, with the likes of WSbR stalwart Mikhail Aleshin no doubt frustrated at having been passed over again, this time by Sirotkin's family ties.
So, other than the obvious links to Sauber's newest backer, what will Sirotkin Jr bring to the Swiss team?
A brief karting career saw him take in various series, culminating in KF3 and KF2 before, at the ripe old age of 15, he graduated to single-seaters via Italy's newly-launched Formula Abarth in 2010. After a debut year with Jenzer Motorsport, in which he finished 18th overall, a mid-season switch from the Swiss squad to Euronova Racing by Fortec eventually produced the European series title courtesy of five wins in 14 races, and runners-up honours in the separate Italian championship.
Sirotkin remained with Euronova Racing to take the large step up into the AutoGP World Series for 2012. Despite still being only 16, he qualified on the front row for his debut, and claimed a maiden win second time out, eventually going on to finish the season in third place overall with two race wins, one pole and seven podium finishes.
The AutoGP campaign was combined with appearances in the Italian F3 Championship where, driving for the Euronova/Fortec partnership, he recorded two wins and a further four podium finishes to claim fifth place overall in both the European and Italian Series championships.
Feeling that he had little to prove with a second season in AutoGP, Sirotkin moved on again for 2013, inking a deal with ISR Racing to build on a one-off 2012 outing in Formula Renault 3.5 with a full season in 2013. The nine races to date – up to and including a return to the Moscow Raceway venue where he made his debut in 2012 – have produced three top ten results, topped by second and fourth places at Aragon.
Sirotkin's fast-track towards the top flight will not
include a maiden F1 outing at this week's Young Driver test at Silverstone, where Sauber has already confirmed that it will run current reserve Robin Frijns and AutoGP frontrunner Kimya Sato alongside Hulkenberg.