Hulkenberg to replace COVID-struck Vettel at Bahrain GP

Sebastian Vettel will be replaced by Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Aston Martin have confirmed that Sebastian Vettel has tested positive for coronavirus, and will therefore miss the opening round of the 2022 season in Bahrain.

Vettel completed 340 laps between the two pre-season tests in Bahrain and Barcelona, as he and team-mate Lance Stroll attempted to get to grips with an erratic car.

The four-time world champion was set to take to the track this weekend to start the 2022 season, but his positive test result now means that he will be replaced by former Williams, Force India and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg.

The 34-year-old deputised three times for the team under their previous guise as Racing Point in 2020 after Sergio Pere tested positive and missed both races in Silverstone and Stroll then also fell ill ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

He failed to start the British Grand Prix that year due to an engine issue before the start of the race, but finished seventh a week later having qualified an immense third.

He ended the race in Germany eighth, picking up the Driver of the Day award in the process.

Hulkenberg left F1 proper at the end of 2019 after eight full seasons in the pinnacle of motorsport, and holds the unfortunate record of starting 179 races without achieving a podium finish.

He has, however, always been gifted with natural pace – as was showcased by his stunning pole lap in Brazil in his first year in 2010 – and provided Aston Martin have constructed an adept race car this year, he is more than capable of extracting a good result from it this weekend.

Vettel’s news comes less than a week after Daniel Ricciardo also returned a positive test last week and missed testing in Bahrain, but he has since tested negative and is cleared to race this weekend.

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