Sergey Sirotkin has leapt into the spotlight as potentially the youngest-ever F1 driver ahead of his expected début 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 début 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."