With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and Europe currently feeling the effects of a third wave of coronavirus, reserve drivers are once again set to be in the spotlight during the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Three back-up drivers filled in throughout the course of the 2020 season owing to illness and injury and there is a chance that their services could be required again this year. 

With that in mind, most teams will have their reserve drivers on standby to be called upon at a moment’s notice at any given race weekend this season, while others have arrangements in place to loan other team’s back-ups if needed. 

Here’s a complete rundown of what each team will do…

Mercedes: The German manufacturer’s Formula E drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries have been appointed official reserve drivers for the 2020 season. Vandoorne, who raced in F1 with McLaren between 2017-2018, and 2019 Formula 2 champion de Vries both drove Mercedes’ title-winning W11 car at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi last December. Mercedes has also been linked to current free agent Nico Hulkenberg, while former Haas racer Esteban Gutierrez was also on its books as a reserve and simulator driver in 2020.

It remains to be seen whether the team would again opt to promote Williams driver George Russell instead of using one of its nominated reserves after the Briton’s starring display at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was ruled out with COVID-19. 

Red Bull/AlphaTauri: After being replaced by Sergio Perez as Max Verstappen’s new Red Bull teammate for the 2021 F1 season, Alex Albon will combine a part-time DTM programme alongside his reserve driver role for AlphaTauri and Red Bull, having raced for both teams across 2019 and 2020 respectively. If needed, the Austrian-backed Milton Keynes-based outfit also could also call upon the services of its long-time reserve, Sebastien Buemi, who races for Nissan in Formula E.

McLaren: As it did last year after striking up an engine deal to be powered by Mercedes from the start of this season, McLaren will once again share the Stuttgart marque’s reserve drivers in 2021. Prior to that agreement, the Woking-based team had ex-Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin on standby.

Aston Martin: The rebranded Aston Martin squad has not nominated a reserve driver for 2021 but like McLaren, it has a similar deal with Mercedes, meaning both Vandoorne and de Vries are available if needed. The Silverstone-based outfit has retained a good relationship with its former full-time driver Hulkenberg, who subbed in for the team on three occasions last year when Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll missed races in Great Britain and Germany after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Alpine: Following the end of his association with Red Bull and departure from AlphaTauri, Daniil Kvyat has been appointed Alpine’s reserve driver for the 2021 season. The 26-year-old Russian has finished on the podium three times in 112 F1 starts between 2014 and 2020. 

Ferrari: Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi is the official reserve driver for Ferrari, and the Italian outfit would draft him in if either regular drivers Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz were unable to drive. The Scuderia also has Pascal Wehrlein - who last raced in F1 with Sauber in 2017 - on its roster of sim drivers.

Alfa Romeo: For the second year running, Robert Kubica remains Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver. The Pole has already driven the C41 in a pre-season shakedown event at Barcelona and is set to make a number of FP1 appearances for the Hinwil-based team, who continue to field an unchanged line-up consisting of Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. 

Haas: Pietro Fittipaldi, who deputised for the injured Romain Grosjean at the final two rounds of the 2020 season following the Frenchman’s fiery crash in Bahrain, continues as the American’s outfit’s official reserve driver for 2021. The grandson of two-time F1 world champion Emerson recorded a personal best result of 17th during his two outings for Haas last year. 

Williams: Former F2 frontrunner Jack Aitken made his unexpected F1 debut when he subbed in for Russell at Sakhir last year and the Briton will once again be on standby for the Grove-based team this season in the event he is needed to fill in for either Russell or Nicholas Latifi

 

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