until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Why Hulkenberg could join Mercedes’ F1 reserve line-up

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Nico Hulkenberg could join the Mercedes Formula 1 team’s reserve line-up along with its Formula E drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.

Ex-McLaren F1 driver Vandoorne has been part of the Mercedes reserve contingent since joining its FE team, while FE championship leader de Vries has replaced Esteban Gutierrez as a Mercedes reserve in 2021.

As the Diriyah season opener race winner de Vries and Vandoorne race in the same series there will be some weekends neither is available.

There are three confirmed clashes based on the current F1 and FE calendars, subject to changes caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish Grand Prix clashes with FE’s Monaco round, while F1’s trip to Monte Carlo is on the same weekend FE is racing in Morocco.

F1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix also clashes with FE’s double-header in Santiago.

That also does not consider any potential travel restrictions or quarantine requirements earlier in the season, with FE holding a race in Spain in between F1 races in Italy and Portugal.

Nico Hulkenberg F1

Mercedes is interested in drafting in Hulkenberg, who deputised for Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at three events in total last year, as cover.

“There are certain races where there is an overlap,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “Nico knows the current generation 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.

“So, it would be good, but we didn’t put pen to paper.”

As Wolff suggested, Hulkenberg would probably join Vandoorne and de Vries in being available for Mercedes’ customer teams.

McLaren has confirmed it will have an agreement with Mercedes this year to use its engine supplier’s reserve drivers if needed.

It is unclear if Hulkenberg, who is more experienced and has raced F1 cars more recently than Vandoorne, would become Mercedes’ first choice even if its original reserves are available.

Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes F1

Vandoorne (pictured above in last year’s Abu Dhabi test) was overlooked when Mercedes needed a replacement for Lewis Hamilton last season. Mercedes opted to move its junior driver George Russell over from Williams instead.

Vandoorne has not raced in F1 since leaving McLaren at the end of 2018 while Hulkenberg had the full 2019 season with Renault and then those three substitute weekends with Racing Point in 2020.

Hulkenberg was unable to take part in the first of those races because of a technical problem but he was one of the stars of the 70th Anniversary and Eifel Grand Prix weekends, scoring points in both.

His Eifel appearance was particularly noteworthy as he only arrived at the track on Saturday, skipped all of practice, and rose from the back of the grid to finish inside the top 10.

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