Nyck de Vries will replace Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes team for FP1 at the French Grand Prix as part of the requirement for teams to give rookie drivers practice outings this season.
A new regulation for 2022 demands each driver gives up one practice session to a rookie who has started no more than two grands prix, with teams able to choose when they want to make the change. Mercedes allows its drivers to select the races that they are willing to give up, with Hamilton picking Paul Ricard this weekend to miss FP1 and allow de Vries to drive.
The reigning Formula E World Champion has already had one outing this year after driving for Williams at the Spanish Grand Prix, but he will now get a chance to test the Mercedes as one of the team’s junior drivers.
Team principal Toto Wolff says the driver switch comes even with more upgrades being introduced as Mercedes looks to build on its recent form at a track it expects to suit its car.
“We scored three podiums in the first seven races, and we have now achieved four in the last four,” Wolff said. “I’m pleased with the momentum we are building, and it reflects the mammoth effort of the team. Our understanding of the W13 is growing with every lap and it’s encouraging to see that reflected in our development and results.
“While we were quicker in Austria, we still weren’t quick enough to challenge at the front. We need to keep chasing those final few tenths and bringing new developments to the cars, including this weekend in France.
“Paul Ricard is a very different track and challenge. It has smooth tarmac and a wide range of corner types, along with long straights. The aim will be to make further inroads on the gap to the front and hopefully be back on the podium.
“Nyck is replacing Lewis in first practice this weekend, as part of the allocated sessions for young drivers this year. So, we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”
Mercedes becomes only the fourth team to put a rookie in for FP1 this year, following Red Bull which also joined Williams in running a young driver in Spain when Juri Vips drove for the team. Technically Alfa Romeo also managed to tick the box when Zhou Guanyu took part in his first FP1 in Bahrain, but that means Valtteri Bottas still has to give up a session.