Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will return to Formula 1 action at Silverstone next week behind the wheel of a 2018-specification Mercedes.
Mercedes has confirmed Bottas will run next Tuesday, with Hamilton taking over on Wednesday “as the team practises protocols ahead of returning to racing in Austria next month”.
The Silverstone test will allow the race team to familiarise itself with the safety protocols that will be in place at the races designed to minimise any risk of spreading COVID-19.
For the race weekends, each circuit will be set up as a biosphere, while teams will not be allowed to interact with each other to minimise contact.
As the Mercedes team has not convened at a circuit since testing ended, this will also give personnel and drivers the chance to get back to race sharpness after F1’s enforced hiatus.
The full Mercedes race team will attend, as well as auxiliary staff such as any on-the-ground comms representatives who will be in Austria.
During the test, all of the race protocols such as social distancing and PPE will be respected, with all personnel having to test negative for COVID-19 before attending.
The is the only such test Mercedes has planned prior to the first Austrian weekend.
Formula 1 regulations prevent the testing of current-specification cars, but there are provisions for what is called “testing of previous cars”.
This allows teams to run cars designed for the F1 regulations in the three years before 2019, provided they are to period specification and using the Pirelli tyres manufactured specifically for that purpose.
Several Formula 1 drivers have already returned to on-track action, with McLaren driver Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Alex Albon testing Carlin Formula 3 cars at Silverstone this week.
A number of other teams are understood to be evaluating ways to conduct similar tests ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, with drivers – including George Russell – keen to have the chance to get behind the wheel of an F1 car before racing resumes.