Sunday, April 11, 2021

De Vries joins Vandoorne in Mercedes F1 reserve driver role

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2019 FIA Formula 2 champion de Vries linked up with Mercedes following his championship victory, signing with its squad in Formula E ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

The Dutchman scored his maiden Formula E victory in the 2020-21 season-opening Diriyah E-Prix last weekend, dominating from lights-to-flag in the Friday race.

Mercedes previously had ex-McLaren F1 driver Vandoorne and former Haas racer Esteban Gutierrez sharing reserve driver duties.

But in announcing its plans for the 2021 season, Mercedes revealed that de Vries would be joining its F1 support roster for the coming campaign.

“We also have a strong reserve driver line-up for the 2021 season, with Stoffel Vandoorne continuing in the role alongside his Mercedes teammate in Formula E, Nyck de Vries,” Mercedes stated in its W12 car unveiling press release.

It marks a first official F1 role for de Vries, who previously only served as a development driver with McLaren when he was part of its young driver academy.

De Vries enjoyed his first F1 test at the end of last year when he took part in the Abu Dhabi rookie test at Yas Marina for Mercedes, running alongside Vandoorne.

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Gutierrez has not been listed as part of Mercedes’ line-up for the coming year, but it emerged last summer that his superlicence had expired, making him ineligible to race in F1.

Mercedes customer team Racing Point was exploring driver replacement options for the British Grand Prix after Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19, putting Vandoorne and Gutierrez on its radar.

It emerged that Gutierrez was no longer eligible to race, though, as he had not raced in F1 for the past three seasons, meaning he had to complete a 300km test to regain the super licence.

De Vries has held enough points from junior categories to race in F1 since 2016, as well as clinching all of the required points in one go by winning the F2 title in 2019.

Mercedes has only been forced to call on a replacement driver once in recent seasons, when Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The team opted to draft in junior driver George Russell from Williams for the weekend instead of placing Vandoorne in the cockpit.

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