Stoffel Vandoorne has admitted “uncertainties” in the F1 driver market mean there are doubts over whether he will continue as Mercedes’ reserve racer next year.
And by “uncertainties”, it appears he is referring to George Russell’s situation.
The Belgian does have one confirmed role, however. He will be keeping his place in the Mercedes Formula E team alongside his 2019-20 team-mate Nyck de Vries.
Vandoorne, who drove two full Formula 1 seasons for McLaren in 2017 and 2018, took over this year as the reserve driver at Mercedes to stand in for Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas if required.
He also fulfils a similar position at Racing Point, but was passed over on both occasions this year when their racers, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, were sidelined due to illness with Nico Hulkenberg stepping in each time.
But whether Vandoorne continues as the deputy for Hamilton and Bottas may well depend on what happens with Russell, who is a Mercedes junior driver and being groomed for an eventual full-time race seat with the World Champions.
Russell is in season two of what is essentially a three-year ‘loan deal’ with Williams, although, despite having a contract nailed down before the team’s change of ownership, his place is reported to be under threat from Perez who is available and would bring in substantially more sponsorship revenue.
Asked whether he will remain as Mercedes’ reserve driver for 2021, Vandoorne told RaceFans: “I don’t know yet at the moment. I can’t tell you because I don’t know myself.
“I guess things will depend on what happens in the Formula 1 driver market. It looks like there are some uncertainties, but we’ll wait and see.
“In any case, I’ll still be working with the Formula 1 team on the simulator, and then we will see about the reserve drive role. But I’m here, I’m ready.”
Vandoorne finished second last season to Antonio Felix da Costa in the drivers’ standings of Formula E, which for 2020-21 has been upgraded to FIA World Championship status.
The campaign will begin in Santiago, the capital of Chile, with two races on January 16-17 that will not be open to fans due to the global health pandemic.
Mercedes Formula E have also announced they will drop the black livery which was introduced for last season’s championship finale in Berlin and is also being used for the manufacturer’s F1 cars this year.