The Russian Tass new agency is reporting that Oksana Kosachenko – former manager of the first Russian F1 driver Vitaly Prtrov – is claiming that, “another Russian F1 driver has signed a contract with a [F1] team. It will be a long term contract as the driver is still quite young. I hope that Dani Kvyat will soon be in good company,” she added.
There are of course still the two Manor F1 seats available for next season and a number of drivers have recently been making their pitches for that drive.
Rio Haryanto, who finished fourth in the 2015 GP2 series, scoring three victories along the way, tested for Manor during the post-race tyre test in Abu Dhabi. Last week, the Jakarta Post reported that Haryanto needed to raise $16m to secure a drive with Manor F1 in 2016 and that funding from Pertamina, a state-owned oil company, has promised a third of this amount.
Manor F1 incumbent driver, Will Stevens, claimed this weekend he was ‘100%’ certain he would be driving for the team in 2016. “As I’ve said before, we are in a good. Obviously we’d love everything sorted as quickly as we can from my point of view because it’s nice to go into the winter break having things firmed up.
“But if it’s going to happen I’m sure it’s not going to be far away. In terms of how confident I am to get the seat, I’m 100 percent confident. Everything just needs to come together and there’s a lot of people working away from the track on my behalf. We’ve had some very productive meetings and everything is moving in the right direction.”
There is a Russian driver who may be in contention for a drive with Manor, Sergey Sirotkin, who finished third in the 2015 GP2 drivers’ championship – a point ahead of Haryanto.
Sirotkin qualified for an F1 super license when he tested in Bahrain for Sauber in 2014, though over 75 laps he was just 8th quickest. Sergey did debut at an F1 race weekend for Sauber at the inaugural Russian GP. His time in FP1 was 17th fastest and four tenths of a second slower than Adrian Sutil. Sauber then signed four race drivers for 2015, Sirotkin was dropped and the rest is legal history in the courts of Melbourne.
The main reason Sirotkin’s opporuntiy failed to materialise with Sauber was because the promised deal with Russian investors into the Swiss F1 team never materialised. So if we assume Kosachenko hasn’t been drinking too much Vodka, and there is a grain of truth in what she says, Sergey may well be in with a chance of an F1 drive – so long as his backers don’t fade into the background once more.