Toto Wolff on the reason to have Formula E drives for F1 test as Christian Horner speaks on Juri Vips and Frederic Vasseur on Robert Kubica.
On Friday, it was announced that Mercedes would be entertaining their Formula E pairing for a post-season young drivers’ F1 test after the Abu Dhabi weekend, with both Nyck De Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne set to occupy their two positions for the test.
The latter of the pair drove at McLaren in 2017 and 2018, before exiting the sport before 2019, while the former won the Formula 2 title that year and was widely praised in doing so. He was denied a chance in F1 the subsequent season, and this will be his first opportunity in Grand Prix racing machinery.
Mercedes F1 boss Wolff said that both drivers have worked hard for such an opportunity, citing in the case of Vandoorne how the Belgian had flown to Bahrain when Lewis Hamilton was ruled out after testing positive with COVID-19, only to be denied the seat upon arrival.
“I think both of them put a lot of work in,” said Wolff to media including Motorsport Network, Racefans.net, F1, Motorsport Week, BBC and more. “They had a very good Formula E season with ups and downs, like it is to be expected in Formula E.
“Lots of work in the simulator, and then I guess that everybody wants Stoffel in the car after he didn’t have the opportunity last week. And then Nyck de Vries for whatever weird reason wasn’t in a Formula 1 car before. And I think he has the driver quality to shine and I’m pretty curious to see how this is going to go on Saturday,” Wolff said.
Wolff also denied that the intent was ever to have Haas F1 driver to-be Nikita Mazepin in their car, but did say that they had previously had plans for testing this year. The cancellation of such plans would not have been affected by the Russian driver’s recent actions, and posts on social media.
“We had an extensive testing programme with him [Mazepin] throughout the year with a two-year-old car,” said Wolff. “But for the young driver test, we decided on the line-up over the last few days, and providing the opportunity to Stoffel and Nyck is good. They’re our works drivers in Formula E, and they’ve done a super solid job.
“With Stoffel not being in the car last week, it just made sense to put the two in a car. And no, it’s nothing to do with Mazepin’s actions that he is not testing. The most important thing was to have some learning from the test,” summed up Wolff.
Also promoting young talent, Red Bull recently announced Juri Vips as a Formula 2 driver for 2021, after the Estonian spent 2020 between FREC and F2. He couldn’t compete in Super Formula and tested with Hitech GP in the year-end F2 running in Bahrain. Horner feels, he will have a better opportunity in F1 ladder in 2020. He will also test the RB16 in the post-season young driver’s test, alongside Sebastien Buemi.
“He’s a member of the Junior team, he’s a talent for sure,” said Horner. “He’s had a difficult year this year because he was meant to race in Super Formula in Japan and it didn’t really happen for him. He got some races in Formula 2, but he’s definitely a talent. He’ll be racing in F2 next year, and of course he’s alongside our seasoned campaigner Sebastien Buemi [in the test], who’s had another good year this year, and has been extremely reliable for us.”
Vips was the Red Bull reserve driver in Turkey, and Bahrain, after he secured necessary Super License points to compete in F1 this year. Also a reserve driver on the grid, Alfa Romeo’s Robert Kubica – who completed FP1 for the team in Abu Dhabi – appears set to be confirmed for 2021 at the Italian team.
Kubica most certainly has the support of Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur, who said the following in Abu Dhabi: “The season was difficult and mainly for Robert because he has to do, in parallel the DTM project and the Formula 1 and it was a crazy season, at least, a crazy six months but we would like to have him a little bit more into the car, a little bit more into the simulator to develop our tools and he’s fully committed with us, he’s doing a very good job and he showed us last week that the pace is still there and I’m very happy to keep Robert in the team for next year.”