Esteban Ocon will become Mercedes' third and reserve driver for the 2019 season as he is set for a season on the sidelines. The Frenchman is expected to leave Force India following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to make way for Lance Stroll, who is all but confirmed to partner Sergio Perez next year.
Ocon was working on signing a deal with Williams, however it has opted for Robert Kubica, who will make his full-time comeback next season. Ocon, who is a Mercedes junior, will be spending more time with the Silver Arrows, driving the simulator throughout the year.
Should Mercedes need an emergency replacement, Ocon will be the driver to fill in, boss Toto Wolff has confirmed: "The plans are pretty clear. He is going to be pretty close to the Mercedes team - he will be our reserve driver and third driver.
"We hope to do the odd test with him, we are looking at pre-season and in-season but it's not sorted out yet. He will do a lot of time in the simulator to make sure that he is ready," the Austrian added.
Ocon is targeting a comeback to Formula 1 in 2020, and has been linked to a seat at the Mercedes squad. Valtteri Bottas' current deal will expire at the end of the 2019 season, which could open an opportunity for Ocon to get in at the senior team.
"Definitely I will be around in the F1 paddock and trying to get as much mileage as possible in a Formula 1 car next year," said Ocon. "Me and Mercedes, we see great opportunities for me to come back in 2020 so hopefully that will be the case and hopefully I will be back even stronger than I am now."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing