Brendon Hartley will be back in the Formula 1 cockpit tonight on a track for the first time in two years.
The talented Palmerston North driver will drive for Mercedes at the Magny-Cours young driver test in central France.
That was as long as the Brackley-based outfit in England completed the first two days with Mercedes regular test driver Englishman Sam Bird.
Hartley, 22, will drive the current Mercedes F1 WO3 car in testing which the team's senior drivers, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, are barred from doing.
As Hartley's father Bryan said, it is another opportunity.
"It gives him testing and keeps his profile there. You don't know what it leads into."
Schumacher leaves Mercedes at the end of this season but the team will probably sign a big name driver to replace him.
Hartley, who was Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso's official reserve driver in 2009 and 2010, was dropped two years ago after failing to deliver strong results in Formula Renault 3.5.
He continued racing in single-seaters and sportscars, and since 2011 has been employed by Mercedes AMG Petronas as a simulator development driver.
He said he was fired up for the opportunity.
"It's a great chance for me to prove myself and work alongside the race team, but ultimately I am there to help develop the race car, and to correlate and validate the simulator," he said.
"Two years ago, it was difficult to believe I would have another chance to drive for a top Formula 1 team. I have worked hard behind the scenes with Mercedes and have stayed motivated and focused."
Since his Red Bull deal ended in 2010, Hartley has raced in World Series by Renault, GP2 and most recently in LMP2 in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
"I feel much more prepared in comparison to my first Formula 1 test in 2008 when I was just 18 and fresh out of Formula 3.
"Since then I have learnt a lot about both myself and the business of racing."
Hartley will also drive for Irish team Murphy Prototypes in the Petit Le Mans sports car endurance race at Road Atlanta in the United States.
This weekend, he will be driving for Kiwi Roger Wills at the Goodwood Revival historic motor racing event in England.
- © Fairfax NZ News