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Formula 1

Vettel to miss Bahrain GP with COVID, Hulkenberg in for Aston

by Jack Cozens
3 min read

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel will miss the Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19.

Reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg will make his F1 return in Vettel’s place, which will be his first appearance since the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

Vettel is the sixth driver to miss at least one race thanks to COVID-19 since the start of 2020.

The most high-profile was Lewis Hamilton, who missed the Sakhir Grand Prix two years ago and was replaced by George Russell.

It’s also the third time the Aston Martin team has been affected, with Sergio Perez missing both Silverstone races in 2020 and Lance Stroll not able to participate in the Eifel Grand Prix.

The other driver to miss races was Kimi Raikkonen, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend last year and could not race at Zanvdoort or Monza, with Robert Kubica taking his place.

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo missed last week’s Bahrain test because of COVID-19, but has been given the green light to return for this weekend’s race.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship United States Grand Prix Qualifying Day Austin, Usa

Hulkenberg, 34, has not raced full-time in F1 since his final season with Renault in 2019.

But he stood in as a Racing Point driver three times in 2020, finishing seventh in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone and eighth at the Nurburgring. He was unable to start the British Grand Prix owing to a pre-race engine problem.

Hulkenberg’s return means he could extend his record for the most F1 races without a podium as, provided he does take the start this weekend, it will be his 180th.

He has twice finished in the top six in the Bahrain Grand Prix, taking fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2018.

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Germany, Sunday Race

This is the first time since the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nurbugring that an F1 weekend has started without Vettel behind the wheel.

That was during the three-race spell between Vettel’s F1 debut as a stand in for the injured Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber at Indianapolis and joining Toro Rosso for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ferrari drivers back Hulkenberg

Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz said the challenge of getting to grips with the 2022 car without any testing shouldn’t be underestimated, but both backed Hulkenberg to still fare well.

“I think it’s going to be a bit tricky at first for for him because the car requires a different driving style to the previous ones,” said Leclerc.

“But Nico is a very strong driver, a very talented driver. So I’m pretty sure that he will make the most out of the three practices to get to speed with this car and I don’t think he will struggle particularly.”

Sainz agreed that “three hours is enough for the Hulk”, adding: “he’s done it before and he will do it again. He will be quick, you will see. Maybe not straightaway but Nico is Nico and I know the talent that he has.

“Maybe it will not be peak Nico Hulkenberg but a driver of his calibre without having the optimal running time is still really strong and really good.”

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