Esteban Gutierrez, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019

Mercedes seek “another solution” for reserve driver after rules change blow for Gutierrez

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

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Neither of Mercedes’ reserve drivers will be available to stand in if they are needed to replace Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas in this weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Mercedes made the discovery after Racing Point, with which it shares reserve drivers, required a replacement for Sergio Perez last weekend following his positive test for Covid-19.

Former Formula 1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez are Mercedes’ official reserve drivers. However Vandoorne was unavailable last weekend due to Formula E commitments and is racing in the series again this weekend.

Mercedes has also learned Gutierrez is unable to drive for them as he no longer qualifies for a superlicence. Racing Point was able to call on Nico Hulkenberg to fill their vacant seat at short notice.

“I think Esteban would have been in a really strong candidate for the seat, but unfortunately he didn’t qualify,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff when asked by RaceFans.

“There is a new rule this year that if you haven’t raced in a Formula 1 car in an official event for the last three years you need to have done the test of at least 300 kilometres.”

Gutierrez last raced in F1 in 2016. Drivers who have not participated in F1 for more than three years “must be judged by the FIA to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seater formula cars,” according to the International Sporting Code.

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It also states: “The F1 team concerned must show that the applicant has driven at least 300km in a representative Formula 1 car consistently at racing speeds, over a maximum period of two days and completed not more than 180 days prior to the application.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020
Hulkenberg stood in for Perez at Silverstone
Wolff said: “That is a new rule that came into effect this year, which we didn’t particularly look at because we didn’t think that a Formula 1 driver would that previously had strong records wouldn’t qualify for the drive.

“But that was the case with Esteban and then, therefore, Racing Point opted for the other option. That wasn’t a bad option at all, for Nico Hulkenberg.”

Gutierrez will not be able to do a suitable test between now and the next race. “We can give him the 300 kilometres but we aren’t able to give it to him [before] next weekend,” said Wolff.

“So we have to analyse now what it means for us. It’s a shame because giving Esteban a chance is always nice. He’s been a strong part of the team and a strong pillar of the team.

“Obviously I don’t hope that it’s ever necessary that we need a reserve driver, if we would have given him the chance. But as it looks, we need to come up with another solution.”

Mercedes also share their reserve drivers with McLaren, in addition to Racing Point.

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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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77 comments on “Mercedes seek “another solution” for reserve driver after rules change blow for Gutierrez”

  1. So, could Mclaren use Button? ‘within the last three years’ could include Monaco 2017 if they don’t literally mean ‘within 3*365 days from now’
    Also i never realized what an exceptional Talent gutierrez has been :P

    1. If you just read the rules Yes McLaren (and any other team) can use Jenson Button untill the 3 year is passed.

      1. Which goes to show how pointless the rule is. One race of experience in a representative Formula 1 car in 2017 is the only difference between him and Gutierrez in the eyes of the FIA, but who is still training for top line motorsport? Not Jensen! We saw with Hulk the impact on his neck. Bizarre.

        Also, I thought the FIA could still grant exceptions on a case by case. I’d argue the Gutierrez would be prime for an exception if it came to the prospect of only 1 Mercedes on the grid.

        1. They can ask Williams for Russell for a race. Williams has Jack Aitken as a reserve, who is eligible for a superlicence.

          1. Williams needs points, you really don’t want to put a rookie in the car in the middle of the season when getting that car into the points is the goal. Aitken hasn’t exactly shown that he is F1 material.

            Let’s be honost, if Mercedes needs a replacement driver, we need it to be Rosberg, even though he isn’t officially eligible. The rules should be bend for WDC’s.

          2. @Oxnard: Why?

          3. Nothing some Mercedes dollar couldn’t sort out.

        2. but who is still training for top line motorsport? Not Jensen!

          Erm, Button raced in SuperGT until this year. Not a single-seaters but more physically demanding than a sim.

    2. Niki 101 is available

  2. That’s not a new rule. That rule has been in place since the introduction of the superlicence points.

    1. @silfen True. Been in place since superlicense points system came in place back in 2016.

      1. Hey maybe they should contact Tanner Faust to drive for them

        1. Wait what how would he be eligible

    2. Superlicence has became too restrictive. It’s clear it was designed for being junior formula team’s money making machine. Long list of the most talented F1 drivers wouldn’t have budget to go thru current system.

      It’s way too expensive for upcoming talents (ie. guys with skill, not big pockets). And then even experienced grand prix driver with recent seat time doesn’t qualify. Ridiculous.

      Obviously, some scrutiny is needed for back of the grid but front runners know better than FIA who is eligible for their seat.

    3. @silfen There used to be certain exemption clauses, that have been gradually whittled down to what remains now.

  3. So, Hulk as the reserve driver for Mercedes then?

    1. He’ll be driving for Racing Point this weekend in place of Perez as the 10 days won’t be up since his positive test

      1. I’m sure he would jump ship to Merc if offered the chance..

  4. Alonso for Megalolz!! 🤣

      1. Oh this, absolutely.

  5. If they really believe in Gutierrez then they can have him stand in for Stoffel in FE, give Stoffel the F1 drive, and Bottas his desired time at home.

    1. @coldfly Stoffel’s FE team would surely prevent that.

  6. Wehrlein?

    1. He would qualify but like Massa who also qualifies, they are both in Formula E. Marcus Erickson, Brendan Hartley, Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin are also potentials.

      1. Paul di Resta too?

        1. Jolyon Palmer too, last raced Oct 2017.

      2. Pascal Wehrlein has left Formula e so he could race, although I think he is part of Ferrari now so he wouldn’t be able to race for Mercedes.

      3. @tonyyeb Ericsson is Stateside and would face quarantine negotiation issues if attending at short notice (as is generally the case with COVID-19-related substitutions – it would be possible for something a bit more planned). Kubica is Alfa Romeo’s reserve but would likely be amenable to substitute for Mercedes if his team permitted this. Palmer is definitely viable because he’s a presenter, provided there’s as much notice as there was for Nico (I don’t think he has a Superlicence because he doesn’t race, but the FIA can turn one around with under a day’s notice if it’s an emergency – as demonstrated with Nico). Brendan and Sergey are plausible, depending on their racing plans for this year.

  7. Pretty sure Alonso would qualify

    1. Yes he does.

  8. Activate Luca Badoer

    1. I saw him race in Valencia, he got more cheers than kimi ever does……each and every time he passed the crowds went wild, it was obviously for him because he was half a lap down on everyone else after lap 3……..

  9. A new rule? I remember it from when the superlicense rules were modified the first time to avoid drivers without enough points to buy a seat in F1. It also applied to Kubica.
    I´ve been saying for months in forums that Gutierrez couldn’t drive. I also commented that di Resta raced without a superlicense a few years back for Williams (Claire Williams commented that Toto Wolff had to talk to Jean Todt in order to get him in the car, apparently as a personal favor). How is that nobody else noticed, including the teams?

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      4th August 2020, 16:03

      Toto Wolff does not read the forums, apparently.

    2. Loopholes have gradually closed as the scheme has got stricter over the years. My guess is the “personal favour” loophole no longer exists.

  10. Believing Gutierrez to be a strong candidate… I thought Toto was smarter.

    1. pretty sure it’s all just pr for whatever reason. they probably don’t really want Gutierrez to drive their car in a race, and are happy they can’t. a good occasion to drop some nice words in his regards with no “consequences”. might backfire in the future though

    2. I LOLed at that one, too. Obvious PR blah, although I don’t see the reason for it. Nobody in their right mind would put someone who hasn’t driven a F1 car in years in the current generation monsters.

  11. strong pillar of the team

    Strong invisible unknown pillar :D

  12. Welcome back, Mr. Jolyon Palmer! ;-)

    1. Where’s Palmer?

      1. He’s busy writing writing nonsense for PlanetF1.

  13. Time to call Fernando Alonso.

    I can imagine, the conversations, whe Alonso puts that Mercedes P2, by half a second.

  14. Gavin Campbell
    4th August 2020, 9:12

    Also you can do the 300km as part of an F1 session – so its a bit of a risk but if you can get 51 laps in over FP1,2 & 3 you would be fine (assuming the FIA can fill out the paperwork for you). But by every metric Hulk was a better choice – driven more recently, better junior and F1 results, driven for the team previously. Gutierrez only wins on proximity.

    1. No, a driver that does not have a valid superlicense cannot do the required 300kms in an official F1 race weekend, so they need to make a test session of sorts for that

      1. @bakano They can:

        The F1 Team concerned must show that the applicant has driven at least 300 km in a representative Formula One car consistently at racing speeds, over a maximum period of two days and completed not more than 180 days prior to the application, either certified by the ASN of the country in which the test took place or during an event counting towards the FIA Formula One World Championship for Drivers.

        1. @f1osaurus indeed that wording states they can do it but there is the rules (or used to be the rules) that only drivers with super license could attend a Formula 1 official race weekend. Maybe it’s the latest Practice Only super license that would allow a previous holder to renew the normal super license…

          I’m only assuming now, I admit that I couldn’t get a proper answer to this from trying to read the sporting rules…

          1. @bakano That makes no sense. This clause is specifically for drivers who already had a super licence at one point and only need to show that they still have the skills after 3 or more years. So yes they are of course allowed to do that in an official test or practice session. It literally says so in the rules.

            The practice only license is for drivers who never even had a super license before.

    2. @Gavin Campbell One can only get the mileage as part of a free practise if eligible to do the free practise in the first place. That requires 25 points on the licence (or, in previous years, loopholes such as “exceptional performance waiver” or the personal favour used to get Paul di Resta in back in 2017). Gutierrez has zero points and therefore can’t even get into FP1 to do those miles.

      I see nothing in the rules that would prevent a driver with 25 Superlicence points using FP1 to do lots of fast mileage and thereby convince the FIA to grant a full Superlicence (that would normally need 40), if circumstances and the driver’s performance made doing so advisable.

  15. Maybe Mercedes need to pay their reserve drivers more. Actually, what I should be saying is Williams need to pay their reserve drivers more because one their main drivers would be promoted, meaning one of the reserve drivers would also be promoted to a full time drive.
    Sorry, but if this seems rushed there’s a voice over that won’t stop.

  16. So it can’t be Vandoorne or Wherlein due to FE, Hulk will be at Racing Point, Button and Di Resta possibly not race fit, Alonso’s probably not an option because he goes to Renault next year and would know too much. They’d probably get Russell in and Williams would get Aitken in if he qualifies. What about Marcus Ericsson? Race fit and less than 3 years since F1.

    1. He won’t as he is in the States and not willing to give up his chance at driving in the Indy 500.

      If he leaves the States he has to go into quarantine for 14 days when he gets vack. If he’s allowed back in.

  17. The real surprise here is that they would have SuperCrash Gutierrez as a reserve in the first place.

  18. I was wondering how Gutierrez qualified for a Super License, I just assumed he’d been off doing something that was accruing points.

  19. They only need this “new solution” for next weekend, because after that Vandoorne will be available for the rest of the season.

  20. Do they need a ‘solution’? Surely if one of their drivers miss two races with covid it’ll just mean they win the WCC with 50 points less.

    1. @riptide Yes, because they have to field 2 cars at every race to get the full payout during 2021. Otherwise it is reduced pro rata for the number of races in which 2 cars were fielded.

  21. It’s a temporary problem, after this round presumably Stoffel is available for any of the Mercedes powered teams. In addition the Hulk can be a super sub and race for multiple teams this season if need me and make a few quid out of it.
    There were indications (Joe Saward) that Russell was approached to sub Perez and he could do the same for Mercedes. Williams could run Jack Aitken (I am assuming he has enough superlicense points) who is in every weekend at the paddock due to F2. It would be sub-optimal for Williams but nothing that a little money cannot solve.

  22. What I find amazing is that teams who spend 100 – 300 million per year, which is say 15 million per race don’t have a backup plan in the event that one of their drivers can’t race. This would be inexplicable in normal circumstances, but during a pandemic?
    Perhaps its time to mandate that each team give up a Friday morning at each race (alternate drivers each event) to a reserve drive who qualifies for a super license.

    1. @paulcook Mercedes had a plan. They just didn’t think it through enough.

  23. I’m very happy I won’t ever have to see Gutierrez on a F1 track.

  24. Wolff said: “That is a new rule that came into effect this year, which we didn’t particularly look at because we didn’t think that a Formula 1 driver would that previously had strong records wouldn’t qualify for the drive.”

    Mercedes didn’t particularly look at a rule? Pull the other one.

    F1 cars have changed in the last 3 years and even giraffe Hulkenburg said how much his neck was affected – and he was racing last year. The rule, whenever it was introduced, seems eminently sensible and MB agreed to it at the time – presumably after looking at it.

  25. Mercedes share their reserve drivers with Racing Point and Mclaren, except one is busy and the other is ineligible. Quite in what sense that sharing is is above my head.

    To be honest even if both were available Racing Point would probably have went for Hulkenberg anyway. Why wouldn’t you?

    Only in F1 is the reserve driver the reserve driver right up to the point at which a reserve driver might actually be required.

  26. Hmm, isn’t it about time that anyone currently racing the IndyCar series should automatically be able to drive an F1 car?
    I can think of half a dozen race ready kids and veterans that are likely faster than half of the field.
    Guess F1 wants to cling to the myth that these drivers are inferior to the limited pool of available substitutes.
    Heck put Sato in the car….

    I will now go and hide in the closet….. :)

    1. @budchekov Possible long-term solution but useless now due to the 14-day quarantine rules affecting any Indycar driver coming from the States (which all of them will be due to the proximity to the Indy 500).

  27. It seems that, at the very least, they will need to look at this more closely if anyone else gets sick in 2020. They have created such tight rules that there are very few options.

    I’d like to see something like: A current F2 driver who had won 2 or more races (total) in the past 2 seasons can drive for a confirmed sick or injured driver for up to 4 races in 2020….if the driver qualifies for 2 or more races as a sub and gets fewer than X penalty points in the process…they are given a Superlicense.

    1. Several F2 drivers already qualify for a full Superlicence, or are so close that they are eligible to do FP1 (in which case, completing 300 km during FP1 would qualify them for a full Superlicence with FIA approval, which would likely be a formality).

  28. That makes too much sense…

  29. Perhaps the teams should be required to have a standing agreement with at least one F2 race winner as their stand in. It would make each drivers first F2 win quite a milestone.

    Perhaps it’s also time to age out F2 drivers after 3 seasons.

  30. After last race Hulkenberg is the guy for the seat. ;-)

  31. Unless I’m missing something,
    Isn’t this where a journalist jumps in and points out that this isn’t a new rule this year?

    1. @johnnyrye A journalist might have yes …

  32. “Gutierrez no longer qualifies for a superlicence.” – this is just stupid. Superlicence should show if you’re capable and ready to drive F1 and we all know he is. This current superlicence system should change, both for cases like this and for young talent trying to get into F1 too. Currently you need to have too much cash or sponsors to be able to run many years in expensive series just to get the points together. We wouldn’t have Kimi in F1 with current system for an example…

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