Passed over in favour of George Russell for the Sakhir GP, Toto Wolff says Stoffel Vandoorne knew his reserve role wasn’t a “guarantee” he’d be the team’s substitute.
Mercedes were left looking for a replacement driver for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19.
Immediately attention turned to Vandoorne, the team’s official reserve driver.
Heading to Bahrain after completing a Formula E test on Tuesday, he was amongst the favourites to fill in for Hamilton.
Mercedes, though, decided to go with “race-ready” Russell, Williams agreeing to release the Mercedes junior.
Vandoorne took to social media to express his disappointment.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed not to get the chance to drive for Mercedes this weekend,” he wrote.
“After having spent the year travelling to all F1 races and dedicating so much time, physical training, commitment to this programme…it hurts!”
Wolff, though, says the Belgian racer always knew that even his role as the team’s official reserve driver was not a “guarantee” that he would be the one called up if needed.
The Austrian told RaceFans.net: “Stoffel is doing great in Formula E and has done a perfect job this year as our reserve driver.
“He’s naturally disappointed not to be in the car this weekend and we understand and respect that. He’s a racer and we don’t expect him to be jumping for joy.
“But he’s also pragmatic and understands the reasons for our decision.
“As reserve driver, you go into the season knowing that you could be called on to race, but that it’s not a guarantee and also that you have a role to play away from the track in the simulator and doing development work.
“Stoffel has done a great job with that, as well as his main role in Formula E, where they have just completed pre-season testing. He’s an important part of the motorsport family at Mercedes and a top team player.”
Vandoorne spent two years racing in Formula 1, on the grid with McLaren in 2017 and 2018 before he was dropped by the team in favour of an all new line up in Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
He moved over to Formula E, racing for HWA Racelab in his first season and the official Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team in his second season where he won the Berlin ePrix and finished second in the Drivers’ standings.