Kubica not prepared to wait

20/10/2018
NEWS STORY

In recent times, one may have encountered one of those news items which claims that children attending a birthday party were either expected to pay or at least bring a present of a certain value, or weddings where similar demands were made of guests.

Sadly, this is the way Formula One is becoming.

There is no doubt that both at Grove and Woking, things are not like they used to be, in the words of the song, 'money's too tight to mention'.

The exact details of the deal which sees Mercedes protege George Russell at the Grove team are not known, nor those of the deal which will see Lance Stroll exit stage left in the not too distant future.

Speaking in Austin however, Claire Williams was adamant when asked about Russell's potential teammate.

"Unfortunately we haven't made that decision yet, we're taking our time with it," she said. "We're not in any mad rush. We have a few drivers on the list; clearly I wouldn't confirm who they are. But we are excited about that decision too, we have some exciting prospects that we are evaluating now. We've got a number of considerations to factor into that decision and we'll make an announcement in due course; I'm hoping by the end of the season."

Asked if financial backing would be a consideration when choosing who would partner Russell, though she said a lot she actually gave very little away.

"George has obviously come up through the Mercedes young driver programme but that was not a factor in our decision-making," she insisted. "We purely saw a young talent coming up through the junior championships, as I think we all have. We've all recognised the talent that George has, and are probably all pretty excited about the talent that he has coming into this sport. So no, the Mercedes relationship wasn't a factor. George has a multi-year arrangement with us moving forward and he will be a Williams driver during that period and will focus on being a Williams driver. There were no factors around financial considerations with Mercedes on making that decision. It was purely a decision made on the talent that George has.

"When it comes to the second seat, clearly as an independent team, and clearly, as everybody knows, independent teams in this sport haven't had an easy ride over the past few years, the sponsorship landscape is pretty tough out there," she admitted. "The way that the prize fund distribution is at the moment in Formula One doesn't make it easy, and not least coming tenth in the championship this year puts the squeeze on things a little bit - but we're managing our finances pretty well, we'll have a good budget going into 2019, it will be on par with the one that we have raced with this year - but there are a lot of considerations when it comes to choosing the driver for the second seat - but predominantly the main one has to be on talent.

"We have a short shortlist, which we are evaluating," she added. "We started that evaluation process a good few weeks ago now. We always said we wanted to make this decision based on pure data, and to get the best talent from within that pool of drivers that we have. So we're working through that at the moment.

"Robert is absolutely on that list as are a handful of other drivers who all have talent as well," she insisted. "Robert has done a great job for the team this year and he would be a fantastic teammate to George. "But we're not ready to make that final decision yet. We've still got conversations to have internally and with the drivers in question."

When asked if the decision might take as long as last year, when Sirotkin was announced in mid-January, she replied: "Yeah, probably."

Arguably, the most talented available driver would have to be Esteban Ocon, but that would give Mercedes two drivers at Grove, and if the Russell deal involved an engine deal, what else - other than cash - could be used to ease the process.

Then there's Sergey Sirotkin, who has for the most part given a good account of himself - under the circumstances - and certainly better than many expected. Of course, he also brings a shed-load of rubles.

Then there's Robert Kubica, who is understood to have received additional backing over the last week and whose return to F1 would be regarded as a sporting fairy-tale.

Speaking to Sky Sports however, the Pole, who lost out to Sirotkin last year, insisted that he has no intention of waiting until December - as was the case last year - for Williams to make its decision.

Told that Williams had said he remained on the shortlist, the Pole replied: "If she said this, maybe it's correct.

"Time will show," he added. "Time is running, I don't want to wait as it was last year. Hopefully there will be some decisions earlier than it was.

"Of course the target will be to be on the grid next year," he continue, "but as I said, I cannot wait until December. The situation is quite clear, and we will see.

"I think the team is evaluating different scenarios, and they are right to do it. And I'm doing on my side some other stuff. So we'll see if there will be a common agreement or not. But as I said, I'm focussed on let's say seeing other opportunities, because I don't want to find out myself in December or whenever it will be that it's too late, and having nothing.

"The aim is to be on the grid in F1, it will be let's say the priority. If this doesn't happen I might be still in the paddock, in F1, of course not racing in this case. Or maybe some other series as a driver. We will have to wait and see. For sure I think in the next couple of weeks it should be decided, at least from my side."

The sceptical among you might argue that the decision has already been made, and that all that remains is the answer to a simple question: "How much?"

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Published: 20/10/2018
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