Formula 1 reserve drivers could be called upon should a regular driver test positive for coronavirus - but who would step in for each team if such a scenario occurred? 

F1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey recently confirmed a race would not be cancelled if a driver or team member tested positive for COVID-19, with the FIA confident it would be able to manage an outbreak in the paddock and avoid further last-minute cancellations like the Australian Grand Prix. 

"We will have a procedure in place that finding an infection will not lead to a cancellation,” Carey said in an F1 video interview following the announcement of the first eight races of the revised 2020 calendar last week.

"If a driver has an infection, [teams have] reserve drivers available.”

Carey’s remarks have placed a greater onus on F1 team’s back-up plans should one of their 2020 drivers contract coronavirus. 

All 10 F1 teams have reserve drivers on standby in the unlikely event of an injury or illness during a grand prix weekend, and their importance has now been thrown back into the limelight amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

So, what would each team do if one of their drivers tested positive for COVID-19? 

Mercedes would call upon its Formula E racer and ex-McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who is the German manufacturer’s official reserve. Esteban Gutierrez is also in Mercedes’ roster of drivers but the former Haas man no longer holds a superlicense, meaning he would need to undertake 300km of test running in F1 machinery before being permitted to race. 

Ferrari’s official reserve is Antonio Giovinazzi. Should Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc be ruled out of action, the Italian would be switched across from Alfa Romeo. Mahindra Formula E driver Pascal Wehrlein, who last raced in F1 in 2017 with Sauber, is also on Ferrari’s list of sim and development drivers. 

Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s close ties would result in a direct impact on both teams. Brazilian Sergio Sette Camara is Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s named reserve driver and first in line to step into a seat if required, though his 2020 racing commitments in Super Formula might complicate the picture. Former Toro Rosso driver and Nissan Formula E’s Sebastien Buemi also holds a reserve driver role within the Red Bull stable. 

In the event that Red Bull would need a stand-in, it is most likely that either Daniil Kvyat or Pierre Gasly would transfer across to the team from AlphaTauri, with a reserve driver then taking the place of one of them at the Faenza outfit. 

McLaren’s alliance with Mercedes through an engine deal for 2021 means that Vandoorne could end up back at the wheel of one of the Woking squad’s cars if either Carlos Sainz Jr or Lando Norris have to miss a race this year. An outside bet for McLaren would be to call on the services of free agent Fernando Alonso, who still has links to McLaren.

Renault faces a dilemma because it does not have a named reserve driver for 2020, while its lead test drivers and juniors - Formula 2 pairing Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard - do not hold super licenses. One option for the French manufacturer would be to call back Nico Hulkenberg, who was left without a drive on the F1 grid having been replaced by Esteban Ocon. Sergey Sirotkin also has links to both Renault and McLaren having been on standby duty for both teams over the past two years. 

Like Renault, Racing Point does not have its own reserve driver due to its arrangement with Mercedes. The Silverstone-based outfit would have priority over McLaren for Vandoorne’s services in the unlikely event that both teams require a replacement at the same time, while Hulkenberg, who spent four years at the team under its former Force India guise, could also be an option due to his current availability. 

Robert Kubica is Alfa Romeo’s official reserve driver and would fill in for either Kimi Raikkonen or Giovinazzi if needed. IndyCar racer Marcus Ericsson acted as the Swiss team’s official reserve driver last year and was on standby to race for Alfa at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix when Raikkonen sustained a muscle injury to his left leg during the summer break, and the Swede could be called upon again. 

Haas boasts two options with Louis Deletraz and Pietro Fittipaldi holding reserve driver roles for the American squad. Both have completed a number of test outings for the team in the past. 

Williams has F2 frontrunner Jack Aitken on its official reserve driver books for the upcoming 2020 season after the Briton left the Renault fold to take up the position at Grove earlier this year. 

 

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