Mercedes name Vandoorne as F1 reserve driver for 2020

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes has appointed former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne as its reserve driver for the 2020 F1 season.

Vandoorne competed in 41 F1 races McLaren. He made his debut as a substitute in the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, and started two full seasons in 2017 and 2018 before being dropped by the team.

Following his departure from Formula 1 Vandoorne entered Formula E with HWA, and scored a podium finish in his first season. He remained at the team after it became Mercedes’ factory Formula E team and is leading the championship heading into this weekend’s race in Mexico, having scored two third places and a sixth in the opening rounds.

The 27-year-old will share the F1 reserve driver role with former Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez, who has worked with Mercedes since 2018. Vandoorne said he was “super happy” with the announcement, which will also see him take on a factory-based role supporting the race team.

Mercedes two junior drivers are both racing in Formula 1 this year. Esteban Ocon has been signed to a two-year contract to drive for Renault, while George Russell is starting his second season at Williams.

View the current list of 2020 F1 drivers and teams

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Mercedes name Vandoorne as F1 reserve driver for 2020”

  1. ooh another potential Bottas replacement?

    1. Talk about going backwards – from a driver with very little personality, to one with no personality!

    2. Doubt it. However, I think Vandoorne might be a hypothetical teammate to Russell if Hamilton decided not to continue after 2021. I’d like to see him back in F1 and I still think, despite McLaren having really fresh and balanced squad, that it was wrong to fire him at the end of 2018.

    3. Well, compare him with alonso and compare Bottas with Hamilton – and I don’t think Alonso was quite as the evel Hamilton has been last year too. Qualifying tells something. Bottas at least managed to beat hamilton for a third of the season. Vandoorne never once outqualified Alonso in his last season. I see no evidence at all that Vandoorne is better than Bottas, but I don’t see any problem with him being a reserve driver. I think it is ncredibly unlikely that he will be replacing Bottas, and I also think that it is most likely that Bottas will keep his seat for next season, and possibly longer. Enough people seemed to get the idea that 2017 would be his last season, then the same for the next year, and in the middle of last season, people thought the same again. He has been given another year a coupe of times now and he got his best result last year. I don’t think the line up will change for 2021 unless bottas really disapoints (unlikely) or Russel turnes out to be incredible, which is hard to show or prove in the Williams. I see no likely changes at this team for next year.

      1. In 2017, Vandoorne’s first season, he was closer to Alonso in average qualifying time difference than Bottas was to Hamilton (or Raikkonen to Vettel, or Ricciardo to Verstappen). 2018 was indeed total shit, for whatever reason.

      2. In 2017, Vandoorne’s first season, he was closer to Alonso in average qualifying time difference than Bottas was to Hamilton (or Raikkonen to Vettel, or Ricciardo to Verstappen). 2018 was indeed miserable, for whatever reason.

        1. Vandoorne failed at McLaren. Even if he got another chance in F1, it will be in a middle class team. Mercedes most likely maintain Hamilton Bottas for 2021, alternatives are Ricciardo, Sainz or Vettel. Russell will need at least one year in a more competitive car and against some faster driver, Ocon will be free in 2022.

          1. @Ambrogio Free indeed, but a free agent for every single team since he’s no longer under (direct) control of Mercedes.

  2. Very good driver who was completely ruined by the worst McLaren of recent years.

  3. A useless role for him as his chances of getting back to a race-drive in F1, and especially in a top-team, are rather slim. Nico Hulkenberg has a better chance of getting back to a race-drive albeit not great either.

    1. and don’t forget De La Rosa. Isn’t he still reserve driver for some team or other?

      1. @Islander Stirling Moss must be in with a shout too. He’s driven for Mercedes before.

      2. Islander, no, he is not – de la Rosa was Ferrari’s reserve and test driver in 2013 and 2014, but eventually retired from F1 and chose to join the Techeetah Formula E team in 2015.

        He was, notionally, their reserve driver in 2015-16, though his primary role was as a technical and sporting advisor to the team. I believe that he stepped down from that reserve role after that season, and in late 2019 he chose to retire from Formula E, and thus stepped back from motorsport altogether, to spend more time with his family (though he has hinted that he might consider doing occasional races in the future).

        1. I must’ve been thinking of Pedro Diniz…

    2. Well he needs to be lucky and have Hamilton or Bottas miss a race. It happened in 2016, when he was McLaren’s reserve driver and Alonso missed a race. Vandoorne was flown in from Japan on Thursday, read the manual of the car, which he’d never driven before, on the plane, outqualified Button on Saturday and scored McLaren’s first point of the season on Sunday.

      1. @krommenaas Indeed, I’d forgotten about that. Was a great performance.

        1. The problem i saw with vandoorne though was that he seemed to go backwards from when he first appeared in bahrain to replace button, to a rather underwhelming first season, and then a step backwards from that next season, then he was out. I think it is incredibly unlikely some how that he’s going to end up back in F1, but a reserve driver isn’t a bad position to be in. Basically him being here should get peoples expectations of him returning to F1 no more than when Gutierrez was Ferrari’s reserve driver. He wasn’t in line to replace Kimi or Vettel was he, and neither was vergne.

  4. @krommenaas Indeed, I’d forgotten about that. Was a great performance.

  5. Ocon: am I a yoke to you?

    1. @muzbye No; he’s on a two-year Renault contract that doesn’t allow Mercedes to take him out of the team until it is completed or otherwise ends. Mercedes needs a Plan C in case they cannot persuade Renault to end the contract at the time they want him (if that day comes).

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