Williams Martini Racing deputy team principal Claire Williams has outlined the reasons behind the team’s selection of Sergey Sirotkin as its Formula 1 race driver alongside Lance Stroll with Robert Kubica handed the reserve role.

After weeks of speculation Williams has confirmed its 2018 F1 driver line-up with Sirotkin securing his F1 debut campaign as Stroll’s new team-mate with Kubica given the reserve and development position.

Kubica had been a strong favourite for a dramatic F1 comeback this season, having been out of the sport since 2011 after suffering a severed right forearm in a rally accident, but after the post-season Abu Dhabi tyre test Williams has opted for 22-year-old Sirotkin over the experienced Pole.

With the official confirmation of its full F1 driver line-up for 2018, Williams moved to explain the reasons behind the team’s decisions. Speculation had grown around a reported £15m boost from Sirotkin’s SMP Racing backers but Williams insists its policy to “promote and develop young talent” was a key factor.

“The Williams philosophy has always been to promote and develop young talent and Sergey fits right into that ethos,” Williams said. “Lance has had a record-breaking debut season, and with a year now under his belt, he will be ready to hit the ground running in 2018.

“After an extensive driver evaluation process, I am thrilled to have our 2018 line-up finalised, and I’m excited to see what next season brings. We have taken our time to evaluate all the available options, and I’m confident Lance and Sergey can deliver the best results for the team.

“We have a talented driver line-up for 2018, that we are confident will deliver some exciting results for the team.”

Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe has echoed the team’s thoughts and was personally struck by Sirotkin’s all-round abilities demonstrated at the Abu Dhabi test.

“Ultimately, Sergey impressed the team with his driving pace and talent, technical feedback and work ethic, both at the factory and trackside in Abu Dhabi,” Lowe said. “I’m delighted he will be joining the team to partner Lance next season.”

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