Williams hits out at criticism of Stroll and Sirotkin

Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams FW41. 27.02.2018. Formula One Testing
© XPB 

Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams has defended her team's 2018 driver line-up from widespread media and fan criticism.

Both Lance Stroll and new signing Sergey Sirotkin have been attacked as 'pay drivers', something the team vigorously denies.

"I was quite perturbed I suppose by the negativity around our driver line-up," Williams told Sky Sports.

"What is wrong with bringing new talent into the sport?" she asked. "That's what we all complain about it, isn't it? For me, people complaining about our driver line-up is a load of old rubbish.

"I think they'll do a great job this year. I certainly hope they do. We wouldn't put drivers in our car that we didn't think would do a good job for the team.

"Lance is going into his second year. He's worked really hard over the winter to improve some of his areas of weakness.

"But he did a fantastic job in his first year. There was a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders.

"He was able despite being only 18 to deliver for us. He scored only three points less than Felipe [Massa] - someone of 16 years experience - in his rookie year, and that shouldn't be discounted.

"Sergey is an exciting prospect, I think probably one that was slightly under the rader last year. No one really thought of Sirotkin really coming into Formula 1. So again, Williams is bringing new talent.

"Let's wait and see how it goes," he insisted. "My experience of him today and the engineers is that he's an incredibly positive influence on the team.

"He's great at giving technical feedback already, and that's what we need at this team in order to develop our race car and move Williams back to the front."

Claire Williams went on to deny that the decision of title sponsors Martini to pull out of Formula 1 is because of the driver line-up.

"The end of the contract has nothing to do with the age of our two race drivers," she told Le Journal de Montreal.

"We told Martini that we were looking at Sergey and they were very open to that possibility," she added.

"Martini and Williams had a successful cooperation and they achieved their goals. They're not only leaving Williams but also Formula 1 as a whole."

She said the team was already looking for new sponsors for 2019.

"I don't want to say now that we're looking for a title sponsor, because we're looking for a budget to go racing. Let's see how the situation develops this year."

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