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.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2022
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.