Artem Markelov hopes his first ever appearance in an Formula 1 event at the Russian Grand Prix will be a starting point to achieve his goal in racing in the sport full time.
The Russian driver will compete in Free Practice One at the Sochi Autodrom, his home race with Renault Sport Formula One Team.
Markelov, who will compete in FIA Formula 2 this weekend as well as FP1 drive in F1, joined Renault this year as the team’s test and development driver. He tested with Renault before the summer break at Budapest, where he impressed with his consistency and pace.
Ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Markelov admits that they’ll be pressure from his supporters, friends and family about driving around his home track in an F1 car for the first time.
“I’m excited for the weekend, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure from the fans, friends and family because there will be a lot of people who haven’t seen me race live before,” said Markelov.
“I’m really looking forward to it, but I need to calm down and focus on doing my job well.
“I don’t know the circuit so well, as I’ve only done two race weekends there and that was at the start of my GP2 career. The results weren’t great, so this year I aim to do well.”
Despite the pressure of driving an F1 car, as well as competing for the F2 title in the penultimate round, Markelov says the weekend will be special and hopes he can contribute to the team’s success over the weekend.
“It’s going to be very special,” Markelov continued. “Especially as it’s my first Free Practice session in Formula 1. I’ve already done the young driver test at the Hungaroring in August, which was amazing, but this is going to be another really nice experience for me as I’ll be working closely with the team at a Grand Prix for the first time.
“I’ll be aiming to understand everything, take it a step at a time and then try to improve the car for the guys ahead of the rest of the weekend. Hopefully I can contribute to a successful weekend, that would be nice.
Markelov currently races in F2 with Russian Time, where he has raced throughout his GP2 and F2 career. The Russian mathematically is still in the title fight, but is 59 points away from championship leader George Russell.
Formula 2 hasn’t raced around Sochi since 2015, where Markelov achieved his best result of twelve at the track in the sprint race. The Russian has set his eyes to win around the 3.6 mile circuit in front of his home crowd.
“I will be aiming for a couple of home wins. That would be good in front of the Russian crowd. To be on the podium would be great, but to be on the top step would be extra special,” Markelov added.
“It’s going to be a full-on weekend, but I’m ready for that. I enjoy working with the media and marketing guys. It’s a different side of racing and they are there to give me as much exposure as possible. I’m looking forward to meeting people and doing my job.”
Only three Russian drivers have competed in F1 full time. Vitaly Petrov, Daniil Kvyat and Sergey Sirotkin have raced in F1 since 2010, with Sirotkin the sole Russian racing in F1 with Williams Martini Racing.
Markelov says the interest over F1 in Russia is driving and hopes that one day a Russian driver will be competing at the top of the sport.
“It’s getting better and better every year. Hopefully, in five more years, more Russian people will understand properly what Formula 1 is about and how it works. It would be even better to have Russian drivers at the top and one day that will be my goal, not only to be in Formula 1, but competing for championships.”