Mercedes were caught out by change in regulations as they look for solution which includes giving F1 test to Esteban Gutierrez for superlicense.
COVID-19, and the heightened risk of drivers being unable to partake due to a potential positive test – as was seen with Sergio Perez – has forced F1 teams to take another look at their preparedness in the event that a driver is unable to race.
Racing Point learned this in the hardest of ways, when – after Perez testing positive – they scrambled to fill their vacant seat. Luckily, Nico Hulkenberg was their to pick up the phone call when it came, but things could have gone rather differently for the team.
They had a reserve driver sharing system with Mercedes and McLaren, where Stoffel Vandoorne and Gutierrez, would fill-in. Racing Point weighed in and opted to get Hulkenberg as one of the reasons highlighted was lack of superlicense.
Even though Gutierrez has one, he is required to have a test with 300 km of running in order to drive competitively as he hasn’t raced in F1 for several years now. This is a rule that Mercedes boss Wolff explained caught them out in the Racing Point ordeal.
It is something Mercedes wish to preemptively resolve. “I think Esteban would have been a really strong candidate for the seat, but unfortunately he didn’t qualify,” said Wolff to media including Racefans.net, Motorsport Network, BBC, Reuters and more.
“There is a new rule this year that you need to have done, that if you haven’t raced in a F1 car in an official event for the last three years, you need to have done a test of at least 300 km. That is a new rule that came into effect this year, which we didn’t particularly look at, because we didn’t think that a Formula 1 driver that previously had a strong record wouldn’t qualify for the drive, but that was the case with Esteban, and therefore Racing Point opted for the other option.
“It wasn’t a bad option at all, for Nico Hulkenberg. We have to analyse now what it means for us. It’s a shame, because giving Esteban a chance is always nice, and he’s been a strong part of the team and a strong pillar of the team. Obviously I don’t hope that it’s ever necessary that we need a reserve driver. If we would have given him the chance.
“As it looks, we need to come up with another solution,” said Wolff, who added that the team would only be able to conduct this test at a later date. “No, we can give him the 300 km, but we aren’t able to give it to him until after this weekend.”
The Vandoorne option will be back once he is done with his Formula E commitments with Mercedes on August 13 and should they give Gutierrez the 300 km test somewhere, he will be able to drive as well, with Hulkenberg likely to be always on everyone’s radar.
Here’s what Pirelli said regarding tyre issues involving Mercedes
Here’s what happened with Nico Hulkenberg
Here’s all about the tyre dramas in British GP
Here’s how Racing Point looked at the whole episode