Markelov or Mazepin poised to replace Stroll at Williams

Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams FW41.
© XPB 

An all-Russian driver line-up at Williams looks possible, if and when Lance Stroll makes the expected move to the new Force India team.

The Canadian teenager is strongly tipped to switch squads later this season after his father Lawrence led the buy-out of the team over the summer break which saved it from administration.

"Undoubtedly, at some point Lance will move from our team to Racing Point Force India," deputy team principal Claire Williams told Germany's this week.

"But so far there's no certainty in that."

If it did happen, Stroll would likely take the place of Esteban Ocon. But a straight swap of drivers is seen as unlikely, with Williams seemingly looking at two well-funded Russian candidates to fill Stroll's spot.

Formula 2 driver Artem Markelov recently made his F1 test début with Renault at Hungary and is optimistic about being considered for any forthcoming openings on the grid.

"I hope they will pay attention to me and give me an opportunity," he told Russia's Sportbox when asked if a seat at Williams was a possibility. "We'll see."

Meanwhile GP3 driver Nikita Mazepin is also hoping to have a shot at the seat, having driven for Force India at the in-season test at the Hungaroring last month.

Mazepin's father Dmitry has strong business links with Russian chemical firm PJSC Uralkali, one of the unsuccessful rival bidders for the Force India team who has been a familiar figure around the paddock in recent months.

"We have talked," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. "But only about the weather in Sardinia." Asked what Mazepin was up to at Spa, Wolff said simply: "I don't know."

Markelov's own father is not without some financial clout, and provides substantial backing to his son's Russian Time team in Formula 2. It means that both men are able to provide vital funding to Williams if and when the Strolls walk out.

Williams is also losing its title sponsor Martini at the end of the current season, which appears to leave them in a precarious financial situation for 2019.

However they still receive a good deal of money from SMP Racing's backing of Stroll's team mate Sergey Sirotkin, and denied that the situation was nearing a crisis.

"Lawrence Stroll was not a major investor," Claire Williams insisted. "Williams existed in Formula 1 38 years before Lawrence joined us, and we'll be here for many more years after he goes."

However the speculation suggests that the team's test and development driver Robert Kubica might once again be left out on the cold when it comes to a race seat.

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