Sergey Sirotkin has hinted that there will be further Friday practice appearances to come from him as his relationship with Renault extends into the 2016 season.
The Russian was handed an unexpected chance to run in the opening session of his home grand prix – effectively leap-frogging confirmed reserve Esteban Ocon – when he inked a development driver deal with the regie
on the Tuesday before Sochi, and did not disgrace himself as he posted the 13th-fastest time of the FP1 session, winding up five places and 0.8secs faster than fellow F1 rookie Jolyon Palmer in the other RS16.
"The lap was very good compared to my team-mate, but that was not really the target," Sirotkin admitted, “Obviously it's good that on the same strategy, same conditions, I was quicker but, to be honest, it's a bit of a surprise as I did my fastest time on the last lap and the conditions were not really the best. I was not even pushing on the limit [as] the important thing was to do the right test, get the right information from it … and it's good because we found some solutions."
Renault's trackside operations director, Alan Permane, confirmed that the team was pleased with Sirotkin's contribution to the weekend, which culminated with Kevin Magnussen notching the regie
's first points since it decided to re-acquire the Lotus team and return as an F1 works entity.
“It was a productive first day for us,” Permane commented, “It was Sergey's first time in the car and he did a very positive job for us. We weren't able to get the seating position perfect for him yet, despite this, he delivered good pace and feedback.”
Although Ocon has since tweeted that he will take over the second cockpit in practice for next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, Sirotkin says that he expects to be given further opportunities to prove himself in an F1 car this season, with the in-season tests currently the most likely points on the schedule. The Russian's only previous race weekend appearance came in Sochi two years ago, during his ill-fated stint as a Sauber development driver, but he anticipates further Renault outings alongside his confirmed GP2 series programme with ART.
"I'm not sure I can tell you the number, but it will be more than one [appearance],” the Russian confirmed, "You will see me in testing and so on."
This year's in-season tests are scheduled for Barcelona (17-18 May) and Silverstone (12-13 July) and could feature both Ocon and Sirotkin, as well as Renault's remaining squad member, Nicolas Latifi.