Alpine has agreed that its reserve driver Oscar Piastri can be called upon by McLaren if necessary, meaning it has four reserve options in place if it needs to replace Daniel Ricciardo due to his positive COVID-19 status.
Ricciardo started feeling unwell on Wednesday and eventually returned a positive COVID-19 result via PCR on Friday, ruling him out for the rest of the final pre-season test in Bahrain. With the season-opening race just one week later, Ricciardo should be released from isolation on Thursday but if for any reason that doesn’t happen then McLaren has multiple options in place.
Nyck de Vries, Stoffel Vandoorne and Paul di Resta were all named as possibilities by team principal Andreas Seidl, before Alpine confirmed it has also spoken to McLaren about Piastri. Vandoorne, however, won’t be available next weekend with him racing at the Sebring 12 hours for Meyer Shank Racing.
“In the spirit of offering maximum racing opportunities to our stable of young talent, we have agreed that McLaren may call upon BWT Alpine F1 Team reserve driver Oscar Piastri in the event one of their drivers is unable to race,” an Alpine statement read. “Oscar will remain fully contracted to Alpine, and we will retain first options on his services.”
The offer is not specific to the Ricciardo situation, with McLaren still expecting its race driver to be fit next week.
“I’m confident he will be fit again next weekend,” Seidl said. “He’s feeling better already but as we know it simply takes a few days until you are fully back in good shape.
“In terms of reserve drivers, similar to previous years we have an agreement with Mercedes where we share reserve drivers (de Vries and Vandoorne). We also have Paul di Resta similar to last year on standby in case it’s needed, but again I expect Daniel to be back in good shape next week.”
While he expects Ricciardo to be fit, Seidl admits the setback will leave his side of the garage playing catch-up at the first race having only completed a day and a half of pre-season testing.
“In terms of preparation going into the season obviously that’s not what we’ll be aiming for. It definitely puts us and Daniel on the back foot as well but in the end that’s something Daniel couldn’t control, we simply have to accept that’s how it is.
“With the experience Daniel has and going also now into the second year together with the team I’m still optimistic that the small disadvantage that he will have starting the race weekend next week, that hopefully it doesn’t take that long until it is fully compensated for.”