Hülkenberg to race for Aston Martin in Bahrain after Vettel contracts Covid


Sebastian Vettel has tested positive for Covid-19 meaning that Aston Martin reserve Nico Hülkenberg will take his place in Bahrain

Nico Hulkenberg during the 2019 F1 season

Hülkenberg steps up to help Team Silverstone once more

Florent Gooden / DPPI

Nico Hülkenberg will race for Aston Martin at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after the team confirmed that Sebastian Vettel had tested positive for Covid-19.

With just 24 hours to prepare, the German will jump straight into the AMR22 from Free Practice 1, having not yet had any running time in the new-generation machine.

The veteran of 179 grand prix starts has developed something of a super-sub reputation in recent years, coming to Silverstone team’s aid three times in 2020 – when it was named Racing Point – qualifying third and finishing seventh on his second appearance when covering Sergio Perez at Silverstone when the Mexican contracted Covid, before stepping in for Lance Stroll at the Nürburgring, coming home eighth.

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Hülkenberg has not competed in F1 full-time since 2019, but this weekend could see him extend his streak as the driver with the most starts without a podium if he makes lights out.

Vettel is the ninth F1 driver to test positive for Covid-19 and the fifth to miss a race due to it. Daniel Ricciardo recently contracted the virus, causing him to miss the whole of the second 2022 pre-season test in Bahrain, but has now been cleared to race.

Despite not driving the new car in testing, Hülkenberg is at less of a disadvantage than he was in his previous mid-season substitute appearances.

Writing just yesterday in a LinkedIn post, he said that this year’s drivers would have a feeling of how well the car might suit them “but everyone starts from zero”.

“No-one really knows where they stand and, above all, how well or badly the other teams will cope with the new regulations,” he wrote.

“That’s exactly why I like this period so much. It’s the mix of anticipation and the knowledge that you have a white piece of paper in front of you.”

Hülkenberg described the importance of a driver being involved in the data analysis from testing — and his level of integration with the team in the past week is likely to determine how competitive he is.

“All the data collected so far is analysed intensively together with the engineers,” wrote Hülkenberg. “This is guaranteed to be particularly challenging with the new cars and the new 18in tyres.

“What many people don’t know or underestimate is that these days in particular are enormously important for the driver’s subconscious. It analyses, reflects and instinctively prepares for the upcoming weekend. For me this has always been an important process in order to have the best harmony with the car.”