Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and McLaren’s Andreas Seidl discuss their reserve driver arrangement and their new use of shared power units.
McLaren and Mercedes share a pool of reserve drivers to pull from, and have committed to using this format in 2021, as they did in 2020. The arrangement became a relevant topic last year, with heightened risk of drivers needing to be replaced as a result of COVID-19.
Asked whether three-time stand-in Nico Hulkenberg is considered an option for Mercedes and McLaren, Wolff says his F1 experience would make him a logical choice – particularly over Formula E talent, who may be busy when they are needed.
Wolff and Hulkenberg haven’t signed anything yet as Aston Martin is also keen to have the German F1 racer on their side. On McLaren side, they will continue their sharing partnership with Mercedes – but it is unclear who will be the at the front to substitute.
“Our two reserve drivers, Stoffel [Vandoorne] and Nyck [de Vries], are racing in Formula E and there are certain races where there is an overlap, and I think Nico knows the current generation of Formula 1 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,” said Wolff in press conference.
“It would be good, but it’s not yet, we didn’t put pen to paper,” Wolff said. At the same time, Seidl added: “On our side, we will do the same again as last year, 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.”
So far McLaren has started their pre-season testing well, with no issues yet, even though both Mercedes and Aston Martin have had gearbox troubles. On the engine side, as well, it looks like the power unit has been integrated well, with no glaring trouble.
But still, it is early days, as per Seidl. The German reckons, they still have things to master in their new partnership with Mercedes. “For us, obviously very important, these three tests days, because of the power unit change, and also you shouldn’t underestimate the changes on the aero side, they’re very huge, so a lot of development happened there,” he said.
“It’s very important now to use these three days to make sure we understand the car, and as I said before, make sure the correlation is there between what we see back home and what we see out here at the track. Of course knowing that we will race here in two weeks, I’m sure at some point the focus will also switch to purely prepare for the Bahrain race weekend as well.
“The most important thing of course is performance, but then we also need to make sure we are on top of all our race weekend procedures again as a team, and that reliability is there, and we have a good programme set-up for these next three days, and hopefully we can tick all the boxes.
“Also the partnership we are having with Mercedes is obviously a new one. So this challenge we should not under estimate, we need to lots of things these next few days in order to make sure that we train as good as possible these race weekend specifics also together with our partner, Mercedes.
“Because we are fully aware that when we go into the race weekend, two weeks, there will be the qualifying first time under the pressure, there will be the race the first race together full pressure. That’s something we obviously try to be as prepared as possible in order to start off the new partnership with the first race weekend as smooth as possible,” summed up Seidl.
Here’s how Day 1 of Bahrain F1 Test panned out
Here’s the Bahrain F1 Test line-up