Nico Hulkenberg will replace Sergio Perez with Racing Point at British GP

Nico Hulkenberg replacing Sergio Perez
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SILVERSTONE, England — Nico Hulkenberg made an unexpected return Friday to Formula One, replacing Sergio Perez after the Racing Point driver tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) ahead of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hulkenberg, 32, lost his seat at Renault for this season so was available when Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer made the call.

Just in time.

“One, we had to find him, and then we had to get him to England, then we needed a super licence and then we needed a negative virus test,” Szafnauer said. “So a lot of things had to happen, and it came together with about 15 minutes to go.”

The German was immediately back in action for the first time since November, finishing ninth in first practice on Friday at Silverstone, where no fans are attending because of the pandemic restrictions.

In the second practice, Hulkenberg improved to seventh in a session that was led by his Racing Point teammate, Lance Stroll.

After finishing fourth two weeks ago at the Hungarian GP, Stroll was 0.09 seconds ahead of Red Bull driver Alexander Albon (who later crashed). Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes, ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Hulkenberg said he got the call to be at Silverstone while he was on his way to the Nurburgring for another racing project.

“That was less than 24 hours ago, so it feels a bit surreal for me right now, but I like a good challenge, and this is certainly one,” Hulkenberg said. “It’s obviously a difficult situation for Racing Point and Checo. He’s a buddy of mine, an old teammate, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’ll step in and try do the best I can for the team.”

It will be Hulkenberg’s 178th Grand Prix.

“Having to find a replacement for Sergio at short notice is no easy task,” Szafnauer said, “but in Nico we’ve got a fantastic supersub who the team knows very well. He’s certainly being thrown in at the deep end, but he’s a fast learner and I’m sure he will get up to speed quickly.”

Perez believes he picked up the virus on a trip home to Mexico between the Hungarian and British races to visit his mother after she had an accident.

He tested positive Thursday for COVID-19 and has to go into isolation that also should rule him out of next week’s race at Silverstone.

“I’m extremely sad – definitely one of the saddest days in my career,” Perez said. “The amount of preparation we put into this weekend to be 100% ready, I knew I had a great car underneath me, that the team had done a fantastic job.”

Reporting no symptoms of the virus, Perez said it was a reminder how vulnerable everyone is to becoming infected.

“After Hungary I took a private plane to Mexico to see my mum for two days because she had a big accident. So as soon as she left hospital I was able to see her,” he said. “Then I came back to Europe, same way, with all the protocols in place. And I just got it, I don’t know from where.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change