A late call-up for Pascal Wehrlein at the first in-season Formula 1 test of the year has frozen Lewis Hamilton out of any non-race weekend running for the rest of 2016.
After fielding Nico Rosberg on Tuesday in Barcelona, Mercedes had been due to run junior driver Esteban Ocon on Wednesday.
However, a late decision was taken to draft in Wehrlein instead, who is a member of its junior programme as well as racing with Manor in F1.
“The team called me yesterday evening as they couldn’t finish their test programme and needed an experienced driver to finish it off, so I came back to the track to do a seat fitting that night,” Wehrlein revealed on Wednesday after finishing third overall.
“We did 133 laps today – two race distances – and finished the test programme, which was important for the team.
“We tried a few different setups during the morning – mainly looking at aerodynamic with the aero rig. Then we did some long runs in the afternoon, so a good programme.
“I must say I really enjoyed the car – it felt amazing! I’m now really looking forward to my first Monaco Grand Prix next week.”
While getting a driver with F1 race experience to test the car may have paid off now for Mercedes, it does mean that it is unable to field Hamilton, Rosberg or Wehrlein at the second in-season test at Silverstone in July.
In 2016, teams are required to allocate at least half of their in-season running to rookie drivers without F1 race experience, with the majority opting to use a day from each test.
However, much like Haas who fielded race drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez in Barcelona, Mercedes will now need to make up for both junior days at Silverstone later in the year.
Ocon could theoretically take both days of running in the W07 Hybrid at Silverstone, with Renault – the team with whom he is on loan for 2016 in a reserve role – boasting a raft of juniors who could test for them in his place.