The Aston Martin Formula 1 team has revealed that Felipe Drugovich will compete in the Bahrain Grand Prix should Lance Stroll be unable to take part due to his wrist injury.
The team says that it will give Stroll “every chance” to compete in the opening race of the season, which suggests that the decision could be left until the last-minute – and that the Canadian may possibly even drive the car in FP1 with the option of stepping out if he is unable to perform properly.
However, the first step will be for him to sample the Silverstone team’s simulator, which will give both parties a proper chance to assess his fitness.
Aston Martin oted in a Tweet on Sunday: “The team will continue to give Lance every chance to race, pending recovery from his injury. Should he not be fit to compete, then Felipe will drive the AMR23 alongside Fernando.”
Team boss Mike Krack was full of praise for Drugovich’s performance after the Bahrain test concluded on Saturday.
"Felipe did a very good job,” said Krack. “I mean, we must not forget the whole thing here is also new for him. He never drove the car before. He's a very, very reflective and calm person. And his approach is also like that. So it's very, very easy.
“I'm always surprised how he can stay so calm, because he's Brazilian also! He did a really good job, the first day he really took it really steadily, and did all the things that we asked from him perfectly.
“And today as well was faultless, I think if you have watched there was not one wheel lock, there was not an apex missed or something like that. So we're very happy with what he has done."
Fernando Alonso also gave a positive verdict on his new team-mate, while acknowledging that the F2 champion’s lack of mileage will be a challenge.
"Even myself, I feel that I'm lacking laps and kilometres, so I cannot imagine for Felipe, how difficult and challenging it is," said Alonso.
"But he's a super-talented driver. He adapted very well this week here in Bahrain, we saw today he was immediately on the pace and good long run.
“So if he has to race, I think he will do a very good job, because he has the talent."
The Aston announcement only relates to the opening race in Bahrain, where Drugovich was always likely to be first choice over fellow reserve Stoffel Vandoorne given his testing experience this week.
However, team boss Krack did not completely rule out a return for the recently-retired Sebastian Vettel should Stroll’s absence extend to the second event in Saudi Arabia.
That extra time would give Vettel a proper chance to get up to speed with his fitness and try the AMR23 in the simulator.
Aston would potentially then have the PR coup of a stellar line-up of Vettel and Alonso at the home race of key sponsor Aramco.