Ahead of the 2022 season getting underway in Bahrain, the quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, Vettel was forced to miss the season-opener and Saudi Arabia Grand Prix a week later after again testing positive for coronavirus.
Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin’s reserve driver who filled in for his compatriot in the opening two rounds of 2022, warns Vettel that he will return to F1 this weekend on the backfoot, considering the other drivers on the grid have already been able to get somewhat acclimatised to the new cars.
“Obviously he’s lacking those two races so he will start a little bit on the backfoot,” Hulkenberg said in an interview with MotorsportWeek.com.
“But I think you know, he’s very skilled, very talented. I think he’s capable of catching up but for sure he has a bit more work to do, and he needs to dig a little bit deeper to try and make up for it.”
Hulkenberg went on to talk about how he was impressed with his own performances this year when he filled in for Vettel.
“I think I did pretty well. Difficult at the same time when you haven’t raced in a few years.”
He added that he misses “racing more on some days than others,” but insisted he is not “desperate” to return to Formula 1 with a full-time drive.
While Hulkenberg admits that landing such an opportunity will be difficult, he remains open to future opportunities.
“Of course, if there’s a good opportunity, I’m up for it definitely. Formula 1 is a lot of fun. But I also know it’s not going to be an easy task.
“I was more or less already mentally done with it, so if it’s not to be, it’s not to be.”
Aston Martin has yet to score any points after the first two races of 2022, so the team will desperately need Vettel’s experience as they continue to develop the car and look to pick up some points.