Sergey Sirotkin has leapt into the spotlight as potentially the youngest-ever F1 driver ahead of his expected d?but for Sauber in 2014, as a result of a Russian-led financial bail-out of the Swiss team. But Sirotkin himself insists that he's no 'pay driver' and that he intends to prove himself in the Grand Prix paddock.

"It's not that I'm going to drive in F1 for fun, I have been selected because of my performance. I want people to respect what I do," said the 17-year-old from Moscow, who would be almost two years younger than Sebastian Vettel's record as the youngest F1 driver if he makes his anticipated maiden outing in the first race of the 2014 season.

Sirotkin said that it was "completely wrong" to suggest that he was just a pay driver, and explained that his opportunity to race in F1 came as a result of a much larger initiative.

"It's not an investment in me, it's about the big picture," he said. "There is much more to it. We are talking about a big project, where another driver could have been selected.

"It's about the promotion of F1 in Russia," he told Swiss German-language regional daily newspaper Basler Zeitung. "And it's also quite normal that the driver also brings a sponsor, just as Fernando Alonso brings Santander bank to Ferrari."

Sirotkin also said that while he might not be 100 per cent ready for F1 right at the moment, "I still have half a year to prepare ... That should be enough."

Others aren't so convinced, with former world champion Jenson Button admitting that he felt that he himself had been too young for F1 even at the comparatively decrepit age of 20 by comparison when he made his d?but with Williams.

"I think another year in the junior categories would have helped me come to F1 much more prepared," Button told Russia's Championat. "I was not ready at 17. Maybe he is, I don't know, but he needs to be careful. F1 is a tough business.

"I had to learn about the sport from the inside," said Button. "On the one hand, it's good, but on the other hand, you can't hide."

Marussia F1's executive director Andy Webb said that while his team was searching for a suitable Russian driver to add to their line-up, they weren't prepared to hire one "at any cost".

"We have a young drivers scheme where we're constantly trying to find people to put on," Webb was quoted as telling R-Sport. "We want a Russian driver, but we want a Russian driver there on merit."

Webb described former Caterham and Renault driver Vitaly Petrov as "the obvious one" when it came to potential future Russian F1 stars, but added that "It's very difficult to find the next one coming through."

Webb said that the team was developing closer links with Mikhail Aleshin and Ivan Lukashevich, and added that he had been aware of 2011 Formula Abarth European Series champion Sirotkin even before the teenager was thrust into the spotlight by the Sauber announcement.

The focus on Russian driver talent comes ahead of next year's addition of a Russian Grand Prix to the 2014 F1 world championship, with the inaugural race due to be held at the newly constructed 3.649-mile Sochi International Street Circuit that is costing a reported $195.4 million to build.


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