Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri has become a contender for a Grand Prix debut next week, should the McLaren team require a stand-in driver.
Daniel Ricciardo has missed the entirety of the Bahrain test, with the Australian testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
While McLaren are confident that Ricciardo will recover sufficiently to take part in the season-opening Grand Prix in Bahrain on 20 March, the team have to make contingency plans.
McLaren's arrangement for a 2022 reserve driver is in close alignment with engine supplier Mercedes.
Should McLaren need a reserve, they can call up either Stoffel Vandoorne or Nyck de Vries – both are Mercedes' works drivers in Formula E, with de Vries the reigning Formula E champion.
However, with Vandoorne scheduled to race in the World Endurance Championship's 12 Hours of Sebring on 20 March, this would mean only de Vries is an alternative.
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Alpine offer Piastri to McLaren
Alpine have made a sporting gesture towards McLaren, offering their own reserve driver if Ricciardo is indeed unable to race.
"In the spirit of offering maximum racing opportunities to our stable of young talent, we have agreed that McLaren can call upon BWT Alpine F1 team reserve driver Oscar Piastri in the event one of their drivers is unable to race," read a short statement from the team.
"Oscar will remain fully contracted to Alpine, and we will retain first options on his services."
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 in the wake of the announcement, Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer joked that "they won't even need to change the flag on the car", referring to Piastri and Ricciardo being compatriots.
"It would be great if Oscar can get some racing under his belt in F1 and get that very valuable experience," Szafnauer said.
"We've talked to McLaren about Oscar being a reserve if they need one. [But] he's our reserve first and foremost, so if there's a conflict we'll take him."
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