Lewis Hamilton will take the wraps off the Mercedes he hopes will fire him to a fifth Formula One championship next month.
Mercedes, who last year sealed a fourth consecutive constructors’ title, are set to launch their car for the forthcoming campaign at Silverstone on February 22.
Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas will also get their first taste of this year’s Mercedes with the team due to complete 60 miles of running at the Silverstone track.
Mercedes rivals’ Ferrari are also due to unveil their car on the same day, while British team McLaren –
who will be hoping for a reverse in their miserable fortunes following the switch from Honda to Renault power for 2018 – have announced they will break cover with their new challenger on February 23.
The opening winter test gets under way in Barcelona three days later with Melbourne playing host to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 25.
Kubica, the 33-year-old Polish driver who has not competed in F1 for more than seven years following a life-threatening rally crash in 2010, tested for the British team in the hope of racing again.
But the team, based in Oxfordshire and a winner of 16 combined championships, have instead opted for Sirotkin, the 22-year-old Russian, who has competed in a number of practice sessions, but is yet to make his full grand prix debut.
It is understood, however, that Kubica is still in contention for a reserve seat with the British outfit this year.
Sirotkin, who will bring an estimated £13million in backing to Williams, will join forces with Canadian teenager Lance Stroll to form the most inexperienced line-up on the grid.
Stroll, 19, will enter only his second season while Sirotkin replaces Felipe Massa who retired for a second time at the end of last year.
“To say I’m happy and proud to join such a famous team like Williams is an understatement,” Sirotkin said. “It took a huge amount of work to get where I am, and I’m really happy and thankful to everyone involved.
“The result of our combined efforts has helped me achieve my dream, and rest assured the team can rely on me to deliver my best.”
Sirotkin, who has twice finished third in the GP2 championship, the feeder series to Formula One, has been a test driver for Sauber and Renault.
He tested against Kubica, in what was seen as a straight shoot-out for the seat alongside Stroll, following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. He is the third Russian to land a full-time seat in Formula One.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams added: “We have taken our time to evaluate all the available options, and I’m confident Lance and Sergey can deliver the best results for the team.
“The Williams philosophy has always been to promote and develop young talent and Sergey fits right into that ethos.
“Lance has had a record-breaking debut season, and with a year now under his belt, he will be ready to hit the ground running in 2018.
“We have a talented driver line-up for 2018, that we are confident will deliver some exciting results for the team.”
The announcement by Williams is the final piece in the driver jigsaw for this year’s campaign which gets under way in Melbourne on March 25.
Provided by Press Association Sport
When Lewis Hamilton said at the end of the Formula One season that he, Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel would be the drivers to beat next year, observers quickly noticed a name he’d forgotten to mention.
Verstappen’s boss, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was quick to set the record straight, saying Daniel Ricciardo is definitely a part of that elite group – and the Australian’s performances this season and over his career make it likely that Hamilton made an honest mistake in not including him.
Of course, there will be no future errors from the four-time world champion if Ricciardo partners up with the Brit at Mercedes as rumours over the Aussie’s long-term future persist.
The 28-year-old is out of contract with Red Bull at the conclusion of next season and is reportedly assessing his options as he weighs up the best avenue for silverware with Mercedes and Ferrari both possible destinations.
But for his part, the ever-smiling Ricciardo is focusing on next season, when he’ll have plenty of chances to show he belongs.
“I know what I want from myself in 2018,” Ricciardo said. “These are goals I wanted back in 2014. Nothing really changes.”
While he doesn’t say it explicitly, everyone knows what that means: Ricciardo is gunning for the title.
Mercedes’ dominance over the last few years, and Red Bull’s reliability problems this season, mean he hasn’t truly been a contender for the championship in his career, but there have been plenty of occasions when he’s shown the talent that justifies his lofty goals.
He’s also quick to acknowledge that he’s still developing as a driver, and his up-and-down 2017 season contributed to that.
“Through this year, there were some great days and some days which weren’t so great. I built up a list of notes from the year, what I can do to be better, to get more out of myself,” Ricciardo explained.
“These are things that are there. I don’t need to address them in the next month. It’s not stuff I’m going to learn back in Australia. But once I get back to Europe in the new year, then these are all things that I’ll put into place to work towards.
“It’ll all happen in due time, but for now all I’m thinking about is taking some holidays!”
Even in a 2017 dominated by Mercedes and Ferrari, there were race weekends when Red Bull had the second-quickest car, or arguably even the quickest, only to be let down by engine performance and reliability, issues that plagued Ricciardo and Verstappen all season.
“In the beginning of the year it was, ‘We need performance. Who cares about reliablity? We need a fast car,'” Ricciardo recalled. “We eventually got a fast car but reliability let us down throughout the whole season, early with Max, later with me.”
“I think Lewis finished every race this year, and if we want to be in the title we need to be finishing every race.”
If Red Bull can sort out their engine problems next season, it won’t take long for Ricciardo to show that there are five, not four, elite drivers in F1.