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Saturday, June 12, 2021

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McLaren set to share Mercedes F1 reserve drivers again

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McLaren raced without its own nominated reserve driver last season after agreeing to call on Mercedes’ back-ups if needed, with the agreement to remain in place this year should circumstances arise where a stand-in driver is required.

Mercedes currently has Formula E drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries already locked in as its official reserves and both are familiar with McLaren.

Vandoorne raced for the operation in 2017 and 2018, and logic suggests that it would be relatively easy for the Belgian to step if needed.

De Vries was previously a McLaren junior driver, although he didn’t sample an F1 car until he handled a Mercedes in the Abu Dhabi test in December.

“On our side we will do the same again as last year,” said team principal Andreas Seidl.

“We will have an agreement again with Toto, with Mercedes, to use their reserve drivers in case of an emergency. We’re happy with that.”

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While McLaren has revealed its plans regarding reserve drivers, Mercedes has been in discussion with free-agent Nico Hulkenberg as a potential super sub if one of its reserves is unavailable.

Vandoorne and de Vries both have Formula E commitments that currently collide with Spanish, Monaco and Azerbaijan GPs in the first part of the year, and there could be further clashes later in the season.

Mercedes hopes to have Hulkenberg available for those weekends, potentially sharing the German’s services with partner team Aston Martin.

Hulkenberg stood in three times at the former Racing Point outfit in 2020, when first Sergio Perez and then Lance Stroll were sidelined after positive COVID tests.

“There is a situation that our two reserve drivers, Stoffel and Nyck, are racing in Formula E and there are certain races where there is an overlap,” said Wolff when asked by Motorsport.com about Mercedes’ talks with Hulkenberg.

“I think Nico knows the current generation of F1 cars and the tyres. And it would be good to have him in the line-up as a solution, maybe to be shared with other teams, because he’s a known quantity and well respected.

“It would be good, but it’s not [done] yet, we didn’t put pen to paper.”

It’s understood that Hulkenberg is talking to Aston Martin about reprising his reserve role in 2021, but as is the case with Mercedes, no deal has been agreed.

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