Sauber 'test driver' Sergey Sirotkin has written off Simona de Silvestro as a credible threat to his chances of making it to a race seat, claiming that the Swiss racer is little more than a marketing ploy.
Even as de Silvestro was beginning her second track test with Sauber in Valencia, Sirotkin - who hooked up with the team after it landed a Russian financial rescue package - was telling f1news.ru that he was not afraid of being overtaken in the pecking order by the former IndyCar driver.
“At Sauber, we have a third pilot, Guido van der Garde, a test-pilot - that's me - and there is the sponsored racer, the person whom they are helping to reach the level of F1, which is, I think, rather more of a marketing move,” he claimed, discussing Sauber's crowded driver line-up behind racers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez, “I do not take this as something to be afraid of. Let's see what will happen next.”
Having conducted one day of pre-season testing, Sirotkin has faded into the background at Sauber, preferring instead to focus on his World Series by Renault commitments, but insists that there is still a chance that he will re-appear in a Friday practice session at a grand prix later this year.
“I was actually supposed to participate in free practice not only in Sochi, but it is an open question,” he confirmed, “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 can not speak about any others until Sauber makes a statement. In any case, it makes no sense to talk about it because I am fully engaged in the World Series.”
Despite one podium appearance earlier this season, Sirotkin currently occupies twelfth place in the WSbR standings, but points to mechanical problems as the source of his frustration as the series heads to his homeland this weekend.
“In four of the six races to date, I retired due to technical reasons, but none of these were the fault of myself or the team,” he claimed, “They are making every effort to correct the problem and we believe that, having finally found the errors, I think that we will no longer have to deal with them. If there will be no more failures, we will be very competitive and will fight for the best positions.”
de Silvestro, meanwhile, also has her sights set on a Friday morning F1 appearance in 2014, with the longer term aim of joining the race team in future.
“Friday morning] is a goal - I don't know if it's going to happen, but it's definitely a goal that we have,” she told Bleacher Report recently, “At the end of the day, [getting a race seat] is difficult because F1 is only 22 people and everybody wants to get there. But, for me, if I do the job right, I don't see why [I can't make it]. There are a lot of circumstances that have to come together, but everybody's working hard to make that happen.”