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

Vettel Hulkenberg Aston Martin
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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.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.