With the upcoming start of the season at Red Bull Ring in July, and the race calendar for the European part of the 2020 season made official, Mercedes F1 decided to make one of their reserve drivers available to McLaren, in case Lando Norris or Carlos Sainz Jr were to miss a race during the season. It could have been a response to the information from the CEO of F1 Chase Carey that even if a driver is tested positive for COVID-19 and unable to participate, the GP’s will go ahead as planned.
That means that a former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who drove for the team from Woking during the seasons 2016-2018 could potentially end up back at McLaren or drive for Mercedes if necessary. In case Vandoorne would not be able to participate due to his current role as a Formula E driver for Mercedes, the other reserve driver is Esteban Gutierrez, who spent his time in F1 behind the wheels of Haas and Sauber.
It is not a new situation for McLaren. During the season 2019 they had a similar agreement with Renault, who has been their engine supplier. This is also not a new situation for F1, because other teams also have such arrangements: Antonio Giovinazzi, who drives for Alfa Romeo is listed as a reserve for Scuderia Ferrari, and Sebastien Buemi who currently drives for Nissan e.dams in Formula E is a reserve driver for both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri (previously Scuderia Toro Rosso).