Williams Martini Racing have confirmed they will be running test days to determine whether or not Robert Kubica is ready to make his Formula 1 comeback in 2018, as well as assessing Paul Di Resta for a seat at the squad next year.
With a number of drivers set to lose their place in the sport in 2018, Williams have become the hottest prospect in town, and have received enquiries from a number of interested parties, regarding the possibility of partnering already confirmed driver Lance Stroll next year.
Having whittled the list down to four potential suitors, believed to be current driver Felipe Massa, Kubica, Di Resta and Sauber F1 Team driver Pascal Wehrlein, Williams are now putting plans in place to evaluate those drivers not currently competing, to give them a better idea of whom would be the best option to join their young Canadian driver, ahead of a final decision.
Williams will run Kubica in the 2014-specification car that Stroll used ahead of his debut in Formula 1, and between races this season to familiarise himself with circuits and car set-up.
The first test will take place on October 11 at Silverstone, with another scheduled for October 18 in Budapest, where the Pole drove a 2017-specification Renault Sport Formula 1 Team machine, during in-season testing back in August.
Williams reserve driver Di Resta will also be given another opportunity to try out for a seat at the same track, on October 17, having impressed the Grove based squad when he replaced Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix at extremely short notice, after the Brazilian became ill midway through the race weekend.
The fact that Williams have arranged the tests does not mean Massa is now out of the picture however, on the contrary, the British team see the Brazilian as an experienced, familiar and hold him in high regard, especially as he saved their bacon by standing in for Valtteri Bottas at late notice this year.
And the possible candidates do not stop there, with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team also looking to fit their young driver Wehrlein into a seat, following Sauber’s engine deal with Scuderia Ferrari, which looks set to include the hiring of a Ferrari academy driver in 2018, and the likely ousting of their man.
One setback for Wehrlein is that he is only 22 years of age, and Williams require one of their drivers to be at least 25 year’s old, to meet the terms of their contract with title sponsor Martini. With Stroll being just 18-years-old at present, that stipulation would have to be met by the incoming driver, although it is possible that caveat could be negotiated.
At present, Williams are happy to take their time over determining next year’s driver line up, but are looking to make an announcement before this year’s championship is over.