Vettel ruled out of Bahrain GP after positive Covid test

Rhonan Colquhoun has the latest on Aston Martin’s driver situation ahead of this weekend’s opener in the Middle East.

Sebastian Vettel won’t be on the grid this weekend. (Photo Credit – Andrej Isakovic/AFP)

Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will miss this weekend’s Formula One season-opening race in Bahrain having tested positive for Covid-19.

Vettel has competed in the sport since 2008 and achieved title success with Red Bull in the early 2010s. After six mixed years with Ferrari, Vettel made the jump last season to drive for the newly branded Aston Martin Formula One Team. 

The German is the second Formula One driver in two weeks to have tested positive for Covid-19. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was forced to miss all of pre-season testing, which was conducted in Bahrain, but has now been cleared to race this weekend. 

Vettel will be replaced by fellow countryman and Aston Martin’s Reserve Driver Nico Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg last competed in the sport in 2020 – standing in for Lance Stroll at the Eifel Grand Prix when the Canadian also tested positive.

Hulkenberg has a wealth of experience and has driven for a number of teams on the grid such as Williams, Force India, Sauber and Renault. Despite competing in 179 races, amassing 521 points and securing a single pole position, Hulkenberg has never stood on the F1 podium and holds the infamous record. 

Having been dropped by Renault (now Alpine) ahead of the 2020 Season, Hulkenberg returned to Racing Point (formerly known as Force India, now Aston Martin) as a reserve driver. He then stood in for Sergio Perez over the double-header at the British GP when the Mexican tested positive and then later in the year at the Eifel GP. 

Super-Sub: Hulkenberg hit the ground running to the delight of fans and drove superbly as he stood in for Perez and Stroll across the 2020 season. (Photo Credit – Clive Mason – Formula 1/Getty Images)

Hulkenberg starred when he filled in for both Racing Point drivers and secured 10 points across the races and earned the nickname “super-sub”. The German was an outside candidate to replace Nikita Mazepin at Haas but the vacant seat was quickly filled by returning driver Kevin Magnussen.

Over this year’s pre-season testing, Vettel and team-mate Stroll completed 339 laps as the drivers got to grips with the AMR2,2 with only a minor reliability issue throughout the three days. As their reserve criver, Hulkenberg is able to step into the car without any hassle and will probably have a number of hours logged being in the simulator trying to get familiar with the new cars. 

Hulkenberg will get his first taste of the new era when he steps into the car for Practice 1 on Friday. With such an unpredictable season ahead of the teams and drivers, securing points and having a solid weekend will be of big value to any team. 

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