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JANUARY 30, 2018

Calling Sirotkin pay-driver?

Calling Sergey Sirotkin a pay-driver is a "pure lie", is the claim of Boris Rotenberg, the Russian billionaire who is widely credited for being the new Williams driver's financial backer.

Rotenberg, the co-founder of SMP Bank, also runs SMP Racing, a driver programme he says is similar to Red Bull's.

SMP also has its own sports car prototype, the BR1, and Rotenberg admitted entering a team in F1 one day is "a dream".

"I've always said that we do not strive for formula one because it is a very political story and it doesn't work if support from various sides is lacking," he told the Russian publication Fontanka.

For now, Rotenberg says he is happy to have got Sirotkin all the way to the F1 grid.

He defends the 22-year-old amid revelations he brings a reported EUR 20 million to the Williams seat.

"He was faster than Kubica," Rotenberg insisted.

"That is for those people who say he (Sirotkin) bought a place for himself. That is a pure lie.

"The boy has been working for this for five years since he joined the programme. Finance cannot play the decisive role."

Rotenberg admits that SMP Racing is paying Williams, but he insists it will "go to the development of the car".

"Naturally there are costs. Motor sport is not cheap. It is not a toy for me to amuse myself," he said.

Sirotkin was Renault's reserve driver last year, and so one might think Rotenberg would prefer the rookie had been promoted to race driver with the French works team.

"No," he insists. "Williams is a historically more important team. It is more focused on the result."

Rotenberg also denied that the presence at Williams of Lance Stroll, whose billionaire father Lawrence is an influential figure, might complicate the task for Sirotkin.

"I don't think so," he answered.

"It is clear that although they are one team, on the track it is every man for himself.

"I have told him (Sirotkin) that every race should be regarded as his last, even if we will be there helping to make the Williams car go faster," said Rotenberg.

(GMM)