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Russian teen hoping to race for Sauber in 2014

LONDON -- Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin believes he will be ready to make his Formula One debut with the revamped Russian-rescued Sauber team next year.

At a time when Russia is preparing to host the 2014 winter Olympic games and the 2018 soccer World Cup finals, the prospect of a Russian driver in the first Russian Grand Prix has added to the rising sense of excitement and expectation.

Russia is expected to host a Grand Prix on a street circuit to be built at the Sochi Games' Olympic Park — providing the development work does not delay preparations for the Winter Games.

It was announced last week that as part of Sauber's new partnership with a trio of Russian companies, Sirotkin will be placed on a development program “to prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014.”

Despite the fact that he is only 17, lacks experience and has been the butt of many cynics' jokes about the Russian arrival in F1, Sirotkin believes he can do it.

He said: “At the moment, maybe I am a little bit too young, but that doesn't mean I cannot be ready.

“I have more than half a year to learn, I am doing a good preparation program — and I can be ready. I don't think it is going to be a big problem.”

Sirotkin is currently ninth in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship following last weekend's race at Spielberg where he finished fourth in his second race.

“The chance to be a Formula One driver is not something you can have every day,” he told www.autosport.com.

“OK, maybe spending one more year in this series, I could be more ready, but after one more year maybe there is no chance for me to be a Formula One driver.”

While Sirotkin looks to the future with Sauber, current German incumbent Nico Hulkenberg this week played down a rising sense of optimism in the team ahead of this week's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg, reportedly not paid his wages during Sauber's recent problems, said that Sauber's apparent improvement at the German Grand Prix may have been illusory.

“There might be a few other reasons why we looked stronger at the Nurburgring,” he said.

“We scored a point there on merit, and could have done better, but the Nurburgring was similar to Shanghai — it was a front-limited circuit. Our performance might be linked to that. We won't know the real answer until the next couple of races.”

The Swiss team's eponymous chief Peter Sauber will at least feel some relief after admitting recently to severe cash-flow problems before the Russian intervention.

This saw Investment Corporation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies taking a major stake in the Sauber operation.

It was a big step for Sauber and for Formula One, but also an important move for Russia.

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