Dutch racer Tom Coronel believes that his compatriot Nyck de Vries could be in line for a race seat at Mercedes if Lewis Hamilton decides to leave the team.
Despite never having raced in Formula 1, de Vries is currently Mercedes' official test and reserve driver.
The Dutchman also drives for the Mercedes-EQ squad in Formula E, and is the reigning champion of the all-electric series.
Prior to this, De Vries won the Formula 2 series title in 2019, and had his first taste of an F1 race weekend at last month's Spanish Grand Prix where he drove a Williams during Free Practice 1, notably outpacing regular driver Nicholas Latifi in the sister car.
New F1 rules for 2022 require teams to hand over their cars to a rookie driver for a maximum of two Grand Prix appearances during at least two practice sessions, and Dutch media reports have suggested that de Vries will be in line to do likewise for Mercedes later in the year.
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Is de Vries Mercedes' "insurance policy"?
Coronel, who is close to the de Vries family, says that the 27-year-old may be set for a promotion to a race seat should Hamilton – who is contracted to the Silver Arrows until the end of 2023 – decide not to prolong his stay with Mercedes.
"If Lewis Hamilton stops, Nyck de Vries will get the seat. Do you know why? As I've been saying for a year, Nyck is Toto Wolff's insurance policy," Coronel said on the RacingNews365.nl podcast.
The Dutchman added that Toto Wolff is keen to keep a contingency plan in place, having previously been left without a driver at short notice when Nico Rosberg suddenly decided to retire from F1 just days after winning the 2016 title.
"Of course, he has already experienced it once with Rosberg," Coronel added.
"I don't want to say he 'uses' Nyck, but that's why he keeps him close to him. This is a boy who is doing everything he should have done. He has won all the championships he should have won.
"Nyck comes from the generation of George Russell, Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.
"If you look at his track record and if you see what he's still doing now, Nyck never lacked anything compared to the other drivers. That's exactly what you get."
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