Sebastian Vettel out of Bahrain GP with COVID-19; Nico Hülkenberg in for Aston Martin

Vettel Hulkenberg Aston Martin
Eric Alonso/Getty Images

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Sebastian Vettel will miss the season-opening Formula One race Sunday in Bahrain after testing positive for COVID-19 and will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, the Aston Martin team said Thursday.

Hulkenberg lost his seat in F1 at the end of the 2019 season, but he competed in two races in 2020 as a replacement for other drivers.

The 34-year-old German will drive the AMR22 in the first practice session for the Bahrain GP on Friday.

Vettel became the second Formula One driver to contract COVID-19 this month. McLaren Racing announced last week that Daniel Ricciardo would miss the last two days of preseason testing in Bahrain after the Australian returned a positive PCR test for COVID-19.

McLaren said in a statement last week that Ricciardo had been in isolation “in accordance with local regulations. Under these regulations Daniel will be released in time for next weekend’s Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Daniel is already beginning to feel better, and we wish him well for a quick recovery.”

It’s the second consecutive F1 race that a driver will be sidelined by COVID-19. Nikita Mazepin (since fired by Haas F1) missed last year’s finale.

Hülkenberg has become a super sub of Formula One since losing a full-time ride after the 2019 season. In 2020, he qualified third at Silverstone while filling in for two races with Aston Martin (then Racing Point) after Sergio Perez was sidelined by COVID-19.

After mulling the NTT IndyCar Series (and joining the influx of European drivers) with an Arrow McLaren SP test last October, Hülkenberg elected to return as an F1 reserve driver with Aston Martin for the 2022 season.

Hülkenberg finished a career-best fourth three times during an F1 career of 179 starts from 2010-20 that included stops with Sauber, Force India, Renault and Williams. He also scored an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche.

Motocross: Chase Sexton to miss Hangtown after midweek practice crash

Sexton Hangtown practice crash
Align Media

Chase Sexton announced on Instagram he will sit out this weekend’s Pro Motocross race at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California after a practice crash on Tuesday left him with a concussion.

Sexton’s crash on Tuesday happened during a test session at Fox Raceway.

“Bummed to make this post but I’ll be sitting out this weekend,” Sexton said. “As you guys saw I had a big one during qualifying at Pala, then another one on Tuesday this week that banged me up pretty good. Nothing broken just need a few days to get back to 100%.”

Despite his crash in the first qualification session in Pala, California, Sexton mounted up for both motos and finished second in each race behind his teammate Jett Lawrence, who was making his Motocross debut and won with a pair of first-place finishes. Sexton padded his SuperMotocross points’ lead over the injured Eli Tomac, who is still second in the combined Supercross and Motocross standings despite missing the SX finale at Salt Lake City and the outdoor opener with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Sexton has an advantage of 78 points over Cooper Webb and cannot give up his SMX lead by missing this round.

At stake, however, is the risk of losing ground to Lawrence in the Pro Motocross championship. Sexton currently trails his teammate by six points and is liable to lose significant ground this weekend.

In addition to his concussion, Sexton has also been diagnosed with mononucleosis and the combination of the two conditions caused the team to make the difficult decision to keep him out of the lineup at Hangtown.

“I’m super-bummed to miss this weekend’s race,” Sexton said in a press release. “I feel like I rode well at Pala, and I was really looking forward to Hangtown because it’s a good track for me. Unfortunately, I was already pretty banged up from my qualifying crash on Saturday, and now with mono and Tuesday’s concussion on top of it, I want to do the right thing and hopefully be back on the track soon.”

A return date for Sexton has not yet been announced.

Other 2023 Injury News

450 riders
Eli Tomac, Achilles tendon | It was just a freak deal
Justin Barcia,
collarbone and shoulder
Jason Anderson, vertebrae
Christian Craig, elbow
Marvin Musquin, wrist
Malcolm Stewart, knee | Signs two-year extension
Aaron Plessinger, hip | returned at Salt Lake City
Dylan Ferrandis, concussion | Will not return until Motocross
Cooper Webb,
concussion | returned at Pala

250 riders
Nate Thrasher, hip
Stilez Robertson, leg
Cameron McAdoo, shoulder
Seth Hammaker, arm and wrist
Austin Forkner, knee | Injury isn’t the hardest part
Jo Shimoda, collarbone | returned at Atlanta
Jalek Swoll, arm | returned at Pala