In these sad times when we lament at seeing Williams as once being a top team, acknowledged for their pure racing innovation, knowing the secrets of winning and true year on year championship contenders. Alas, those days have long since passed.
Instead we see Williams requiring an income that comes with drivers who have financial backing and questionable talent. It’s interesting that those two statements are interchangeable in this scenario.
Sirotkin has backing that comes mostly from the Russian bank SMP and with that Williams should very much be paying attention to recent developments in the UK town of Salisbury two weeks ago. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s unlikely to have escaped your attention that the poisoning of an ex Russian spy who had been convicted of working for the UK as a double agent, has set in motion actions that will likely hinder SMP’s financial ability to function outside of Russia.
Already the rhetoric of solidarity against Russia by the West will almost certainly mean a return to sanctions against that country.
The EU’s foreign affairs council said it condemned the “reckless and illegal act” and said it took the UK government’s view “extremely seriously” that it was likely that Russia was responsible.
“The use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is completely unacceptable and constitutes a security threat to us all,” it said.
“The European Union expresses its unqualified solidarity with the UK and its support, including for the UK’s efforts to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.”
Back in 2014, similar sanctions were placed on Russian businesses after the invasion of the Crimea and the country’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. SMP Bank co-owners and friend of Putin, Boris Rotenberg and his brother Arkady being among the 20 Russians handed sanctions by the U.S. State Department. It led to the temporary suspension of Visa and Mastercard payment services to bank holders. The team’s involvement in the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series, plus supporting dozens of Russian drivers in motorsports worldwide was described at the time as being at the “risk of failure” due to the frozen European accounts. The teams relying on those cheques from SMP were very much on the cusp of collapse.
Williams will be very worried should sanctions progress in 2018. Sirotkin’s revenue will no doubt dry up quickly as the F1 season progresses.
One mans misfortune could well be another’s ‘lottery win’. It’s no coincidence that Williams have been hedging their bets with significant seat time for their reserve Polish driver Robert Kubica. The polish driver has financial backers that’ll no doubt be asked to increase their contribution should Russian sanctions completely stop SMP’s revenue to the team. The payback? Kubica taking to the grid of course.