Ex-Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin says he struggles to come to terms with the fact that his F1 career has likely slipped away “forever”.
The Russian racer competed in the series for just one season with the struggling Williams team in 2018. He would partner Lance Stroll and scored only one point, leaving him P20 and last in the Drivers’ Championship.
He would be replaced by Robert Kubica for the 2019 season and went on to become reserve driver for Renault and McLaren.
But he feels that his F1 career has already slipped away, and admits that it grows harder to deal with it.
“I’d say it’s become maybe even more painful,” Sirotkin told Autosport at the launch of his and SMP Racing’s karting academy in Moscow.
“Because at that point of course Williams wasn’t the most competitive, I knew that for the next year the situation probably wouldn’t change dramatically.
“[We thought] that having this gap year we’d maybe have the chance to find a better option than trying to fight Robert for that seat.
“But now, having harboured some rather high hopes, high expectations, and even having had some initial agreements [in my first year in F1], and in the end you didn’t achieve your target – having then lost a further year, you realise that to make it [back to the grid] for the following year will be even tougher.
“And like that you realise that you’ve probably let the goal slip away forever.
“And, to be honest, when you don’t think about it it doesn’t really hurt, but every day it happens that you’re reminded about it, and it’s really- I don’t know, I’m not emotionless about it, it’s not the least important thing in my life, so for me it’s always been quite painful and will remain that way.
“I’m very self-critical, and to realise at 23-24 that what you’ve worked towards all your life hasn’t worked out, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
Sirotkin is expected to confirm a racing programme for 2020 that works alongside a coaching role with his academy, and he admits that while he didn’t have much to do in 2019 as Renault and McLaren’s reserve driver, he still preferred being involved in the paddock than away from it.
“In the beginning I thought it would be [harder]. I thought, when you’re watching it from Moscow, you’ve already forgotten a bit what Formula 1 is like, you’ve distracted yourself and it’s all okay,” he explained.
“And then you’re back in the paddock, everything is familiar, you’re involved, but you don’t have a car, you’re not doing much, you’re still watching the races on TV or on the computer, and at some point I thought this may be harder to accept.
“But then I missed one race due to a passport delay, and after that I realised that I do prefer to fly in, to remain in that system in one way or another, to remain in touch with the people I know, rather than watch it from home on the couch.”