Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin, 2022

Hulkenberg to make race return in Bahrain after Vettel tests positive for Covid-19

2022 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel will not take part in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19, his team have confirmed.

Nico Hulkenberg will substitute for the four-times world champion alongside the team’s regular driver, Lance Stroll.

Hulkenberg made his last F1 start in 2020 for the same team, when it was known as Racing Point, as a substitute for Stroll in the Eifel Grand Prix. He also drove for the team earlier in the year as a substitute for Sergio Perez in two races. On both occasions the drivers had tested positive for Covid-19.

It marks a return for the driver who competed in 179 races for Williams, Sauber and Racing Point, including when the latter was previously known as Force India.

Daniel Ricciardo will return to competition this weekend having missed the final pre-season test after testing positive for Covid-19.

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Notable positive Covid-19 cases in F1

18/3/2020One team memberMcLarenRace subsequently cancelled
30/07/2020Sergio PerezRacing PointMissed British and 70th Anniversary grands prix
08/10/2020Six team membersMercedes
13/10/2020Two team membersRenault
21/10/2020Lawrence StrollRacing Point
21/10/2020Lance StrollRacing PointMissed Eifel Grand Prix
30/10/2020Four team membersRacing Point
11/11/2020Simon RobertsWilliams
16/11/2020Mario IsolaPirelli
26/11/2020Jonathan WheatleyRed Bull
1/12/2020Lewis HamiltonMercedesMissed Sakhir Grand Prix
5/1/2021Lando NorrisMcLaren
13/1/2021Charles LeclercFerrari
25/1/2021Toto WolffMercedes
31/1/2021Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri
11/3/2021Frederic VasseurAlfa Romeo
25/3/2021Two team membersAston Martin
15/7/2021Three team membersMcLarenIncluding McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown
4/9/2021Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoMissed two races
7/10/2021Alan van der Merwe and Dr Ian RobertsMedical Car teamMissed Turkish Grand Prix
2/11/2021Jost CapitoWilliamsMissed Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
12/12/2021Nikita MazepinHaasMissed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
16/12/2021Charles LeclercFerrariFirst driver to have a second positive test
11/03/2022Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMissed second pre-season test in Bahrain
17/03/2022Sebastian VettelAston MartinMissed Bahrain Grand Prix

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2022 F1 season

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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72 comments on “Hulkenberg to make race return in Bahrain after Vettel tests positive for Covid-19”

  1. Hulkenberg has incredible hair.

    1. Isn’t it perfect.

      1. Have some respect for the f1 people that died from covid!

      2. Was he was having a pina colada at Trader Vic’s? :)

  2. Why have all these budding stars as reserve drivers to just trot out the old boys each time there’s a genuine issue.

    1. They need a driver who knows how to drive an F1 car, knows the procedures, and knows how the team operates @millionus. Up and coming reserves simply do not have the opportunity to have that experience.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      17th March 2022, 9:40

      Whilst I’d usually agree, it’s the first race with a new generation of cars so I can see why they’d want an experienced driver to give good feedback and try and get the car to the chequered flag.

    3. Not sure what you are complaining about, Aston Martin don’t have a ‘budding star’, not in their system nor as their reserve.

    4. This is F1, not kindergarten. That’s why.

    5. Nico Hulkenberg IS Aston Martin F1’s Reserve Driver.. they do not currently have any ”young bucks” as their reserve..

      1. Correct!

  3. Nice, and the way for him to stay in the picture with teams.
    We already had some surprise changes so let’s see what this year brings.

  4. Zero experience in the new cars… I don’t envy him. He will most likely be last in the qualification and the race.

    1. Yeah, Magnussen was a total wipeout in testing…..

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      17th March 2022, 9:56

      I think he’ll be fine. No-one has pushed these cars to their limits with everything turned up yet. Considering practice was split between the drivers for each team, they’ve roughly had 4 days each in the car and some of that will have been performing systems checks etc.

      Hulk will be fine and the chance to drive the car means he’ll be of more use to Aston Martin if they use him to do some simulator work in the near future.

    3. He did some simulator runs so it’s not completely for him.

      1. +1 – I understand he has done a LOT of simulator work and he is their reserve driver.

  5. Shouldn’t have cuddled so closely with Dan, one supposes.

    1. @proesterchen Others were close to him too.

      1. Indeed, they probably were. Seb did come to mind as being next to Dan in the Ukraine war protest photos, though, when Dan’s infection was originally reported.

  6. Hulkenberg is skmewhat of a fan favourite…

    Imagine he finally gets his podium, if car is fast?

    1. Unfortunately for Niko, the Aston Martin didn’t look like a particularly fast car so far.

      No comparison to the pink Merc he got to drive last time ’round.

  7. unpopular opinion but its past that point now. they should be allowed to work in the paddock or if its a driver then they should be allowed to race. If not then why bother with the jabs?

    1. Don’t ask questions, just consume.

    2. Most people I know who have had it have still gotten quite sick so he’s potentially not up to driving anyway. It seems Danny certainly wasn’t at the height of his illness.

    3. Coventry Climax
      17th March 2022, 12:12

      The jabs help keeping the Intensive Cares from being flooded, and bring down the overall chance of dying from Covid. It’s not like you don’t get sick anymore. Do you ever read anything serious about Covid, or do you get your opinions worded as ‘information’ from Youtube, Facebook and Twitter only?

      1. Then why no testing anymore in the paddock. Anyone could have it and spread it without knowing

        1. Coventry Climax
          17th March 2022, 12:43

          So, you doubt my answer, because it doesn’t suit your now added, second and different question?

          OK. Answer is NO. The your next question, that is. But I might have guessed wrong here.

    4. Not so much an unpopular opinion, as an uniformed one.

      1. edit uninformed one

    5. Everyone is vaccinated and we know that the vaccines are safe and effective, so agree we should just move on from this.

    6. Allowing someone known to be shedding virus to circulate in the paddock would be criminally negligent. Even in cases of mild initial symptoms, COVID can have catastrophic long-term effects.

  8. Always good to see the Hulk on the grid. He’s a driver who I’ve always felt has never been given the opportunities that his talent deserves. Though of course disappointed for Vettel and hope he’s not suffering too much and makes a speedy recovery.

    I think there’s a broader question here about how Covid is managed in F1 in the future. We’re at a point where case numbers around the world are very high, yet in most countries rules are being relaxed as we adjust to the situation where the severity of the virus has been significantly reduced. For many people now, the reality is that they could knowingly have Covid and yet still work if they’re physically well enough; the need to isolate yourself has been removed entirely, making Covid no more serious than any other regular virus in that respect.

    At some point that’s going to become the reality in F1 as well, yet right now it seems the teams are still, understandably, taking a very cautious approach. I wonder how caution would be weighed up in the event of a driver who is engaged in a close title fight were to test positive? Perhaps a case of don’t ask don’t tell.

    1. @mazdachris I think the other issue is that they also have to follow covid procedures for each country that they’re in. It might be fine in some countries but not others. If you allow someone infected into the paddock a team could lose half their crew for the next race if it’s a country that is stricter. So until all countries are similarly relaxed, I think F1 needs to stick with this process. Maybe next year all this has settled down?

    2. Coventry Climax
      17th March 2022, 12:27

      Please note I’m speculating here, but it might very well be that governements around the world see the current, less harmful variant of Covid as an excellent opportunity to get as many people as possible exposed to the virus and create the group immunity that was talked about from the beginning. Taking away all constrictive rules is a very effective way to achieve this. And this may be done in the hope that should the next variant emerge and prove to be more aggressive again, we’re all better prepared for it, defensive system-wise.
      I’m not of the conspiracy theory type, and I can’t see a reason to hide it from the public, so if this is the case, I expect we’ll hear about it sooner or later.
      We’ll see how F1 handles it all, in the future. But I expect F1 to be more careful and less open about their rules and the reasons for them.

      1. Exposing as many people as possible to the virus would allow the virus as many opportunities as possible to mutate, perhaps into a deadlier variant.

  9. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    17th March 2022, 10:07

    The whole world is opening up and reducing Covid restrictions and at same time Omicron is spreading like wildfire across the globe often going undetected.

    If I was a F1 driver now, certainly those with a chance for WDC, I would try to enforce 2 meter distance, reduce media appearances to bare minimal and only for people being vaccinated and double tested.

    Can you imagine losing a WDC because you missed races due to a positive Covid test.

    I also think that the FIA should potentially revise their policy to still allow F1 drivers to qualify and race even if tested positive. All drivers are vaccinated and likely boostered, all are extremely fit and healthy, Omicron in the far majority of cases has no or less severe sickness effects.

    It should be possible to arrange that a driver is isolated from almost everyone else during a F1 weekend – certainly while driving a car there is little chance of infecting someone else.

    1. It should be possible to arrange that a driver is isolated from almost everyone else during a F1 weekend – certainly while driving a car there is little chance of infecting someone else.

      Drivers cannot even tie their own seatbelts without help. Also, if they are involved in a heavy crash they may need to get in close contact with marshals and the medical staff.

      Let’s imagine a Grosjean type of situation, do we want marshals to hesitate getting close enough to help the known-positive driver?

      That is not to mention that even if Covid is not going to kill the person, it can make even the healthy and vaccinated tired and weak enough to be unfit for intense cardio activity for a few days, specially at the beginning, so better to have the reserve driver take over from the start.

      1. The virus is going to break all track records it is lapping the world so fast. I’m all for the underdogs!
        Go Greta we miss you!

    2. Yeah, it’s spreads fast and goes away even faster. I’ve had it two times already and I can see most people recover without breaking sweat. The virus is here to stay. You keep your distance from people, but that’ll make many things harder in life. For how long was Ricciardo positive? Two days? Come on…

      1. Neither of us know for how long Ricciardo was positive but there’s still a difference between being tested positive (being infected) and being ill (suffering from Covid). The one thing is a virus the other is a disease.

        Both the virus and the disease are here to stay unfortunately as we as a society do hardly anything against it anymore. I personally applaud F1 for at least enforcing strict measures withing their microcosmos.

        In this particular circus it’s a whole lot more complicated than just asking your office co-worker to process emais from home for a few days after returning a positive test. Taking hundreds of people around the globe and hopping countries every other weekend does have some more implications. As @paulk pointed out keeping distance in Formula 1 is not that easy. Managing emergencies can’t be done from a far, taking someone injured to hospital in a helicopter is a whole different hussle for those teams when you have to make sure the air rescue professionals as well as follow-up patients are safe. This also compromises the stand-by of such crews at the venues.

        Moreover none of us have any experience in doing physical work to the extent of Formula 1 drivers while suffering from Covid. Drivers have been prohibited from participating before after heavy impacts to reduce the risk of further impacts and the inevitable more serious injuries and consequences.

        And then again, Omicron is highly contagious. Everyone of us has those knowingly more vulnerable relatives. Fortunately most of those infected hardly suffer severe or prolonged symptoms by now. But if you reduce the risk by factor 10 but at the same time increase the number of new cases by factor 100 you don’t only get a lesson in basic statistics but eventually a medical one as well.

      2. I just recovered from it (still have a kuch)

  10. Will this farce ever end? Indycar doesn’t even require masks, yet at least to my knowledge, no driver missed the race due to testing positive for covid. In F1 they still wear masks like idiots and drivers are dropping out like flies, despite feeling fine.

  11. Hulkenback baby!

    Disappointed for Seb but I’m keen to see what Hulk can do given the formula is new for everyone.

  12. I fear this is going to happen more and more with restrictions ending and people wearing masks less and less. Let’s hope the title is not decided because of it.

    1. Considering how dangerous covid is at the age of these drivers, if they’re fighting for the title they should just not say anything if they think they have covid, so they don’t get tested and don’t risk losing the title.

  13. Whenever, wherever
    We’re meant to be together
    I’ll be there, and you’ll be near
    And that’s the deal, my dear

    1. I’ll take the bait @qeki:

      “There over, hereunder
      You’ll never have to wonder
      Let Lance pass if he’s near,
      But that’s the deal my dear”

  14. Hmm, as I mentioned when Ricciardo got his positive test, he was amongst the drivers (and the whole paddock I assume) on last Wednesday when they took the No War photo, and he was already too sick to drive by next morning, so he was likely a carrier back then, and I wondered if anyone else might catch it afterwards… I’m a bit afraid this won’t be the only positive test this weekend. Best wishes to Seb.

    1. @hunocsi Possible since he was close to others & shook hands with, coincidently, Seb, but also touched Albon, Max, Bottas, & Russell. I certainly hope no one else catches COVID afterwards like Seb.

  15. I didn’t see this coming at all, so a total shock. On the other hand, Seb’s infection is likely because he shook hands with RIC last Wednesday, although the latter also had physical contact with four more drivers who I’ve named above.
    Hulk substituting is unsurprising since he’s the team’s official & regular reserve.

    1. @jerejj With how common the virus is I think it’s madness to suggest that the infection is down to a specific interaction. Both Vettel and Ricciardo could easily have contracted Covid on their flights to Bahrain, for example (though it would be quite a long incubation period in the case of Vettel).

      Though if Ricciardo turns out to be Patient Zero in some kind of super-spreader event it will certainly make the start of the season interesting (assuming everybody recovers of course).

  16. It’s time to end the covid psychosis. When you are so sick you can’t drive, you won’t drive. Let’s get back to that and stop the silly PCR testing, quarantine without symptoms, etc.

  17. Should the old rule to allow drivers to drop their worst race result be reintroduced. It will stop drivers being negatively affected by a positive Covid test if everyone has to ignore one result.

    1. True, that would be useful in this case.

  18. Sergey Martyn
    17th March 2022, 12:45

    Too bad it wasn’t Piastri but – forza, ye olde Hulk!

  19. WHOOOP!

  20. Not going to lie I’m happy to see Vettel gone. Can’t stand for Vettel, very disrespectful human being.

    1. based on?

        1. You must be joking.

    2. Because of how vocal he is about the need to protect the planet we inhabit? Yeah, that’s so annoying.

    3. You consider him to be disrespectful?
      Is that because he speaks up when most around him are silent?
      Because he stands up for what he feels to be right?

      Who has he been disrespectful to @peartree ?
      Tell us which of your Gods he has disrespected.

    4. It is hard to defend a man that you do not know personally.
      But Vettel genuinely seems to be the most thoughtful, respectful and witty person on the current grid. His absence from social media seems to hint that his persona is authentic and not just a PR image.

      I even think that a person like Seb may be respectful enough not to be happy when someone else is ill or has bad luck.

  21. They should just make him the official reserve driver of formula one. Just put it on his business card.

  22. OK Hulk …. this might be the last chance.

    I will be fingers crossed for reliability problems and clashes for any (and all!) who are in front of you.
    They have a full season to catch up so do not fret about them.
    Keep it tight and stay in the fight – let’s get this podium Dude ;)

  23. Is Hulkenberg still in shape? I don’t think he did any racing in 2021.

  24. The funny thing is if Nico could somehow get a podium finish, he could even get his (F1) seat back.

    1. I don’t see how, he can’t replace stroll obviously, and he doesn’t bring money, so replacing vettel is also out of the question.

      Although you probably mean to haas, since he had been considered before picking magnussen, I think he would be better there.

  25. RandomMallard
    17th March 2022, 20:06

    Shame for Seb, but a good opportunity for Nico.

  26. A little bit incomplete data in the article, Nico also drove for Renault.

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