SMP sporting director Mika Salo defends Sirotkin choice

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Former F1 driver Mika Salo says Williams has put together a pair of 'hungry' drivers by choosing Sergey Sirotkin to race alongside Lance Stroll this year.

The former Ferrari and Toyota driver heads the motor racing programme of Russian bank SMP, which is supporting Sirotkin's graduation to Formula 1 with a financial package rumored to be worth $20 million to Williams.

Salo however insists the 22-year-old rookie is more than just a pay driver.

"Williams is the best choice for Sirotkin. It's a good team, he has a young teammate and both are definitely hungry," Salo told Finnish broadcaster MTV.

"He's a smart guy. He knows a lot about engineering and technology and has good experience of F1 cars with Renault," he added.

Salo won't predict which Williams driver - Canadian Stroll or Sirotkin - will have the upper hand in 2018. But he believes a healthy emulation among the two young chargers will lead to positive results.

"I think they're pretty much the same, but we'll only find out in the races," he said.

"They will certainly fight hard against each other, which takes the team forward and brings results for both of them."

SMP Bank's Boris Rothenberg is obviously delighted to see a Russian back in F1.

"In 2018 we are making our debut in Formula 1 with Williams and Sergey Sirotkin," the billionaire told news agency Ria Novosti.

"This will undoubtedly please Russian fans and have a significant impact on the development of Russian motor sport," he added.

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