Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel sit out the second race of the year as he recovers from covid, while Nico Hulkenberg will once again replace him.
Yesterday, Aston Martin revealed that they would be delaying their decision on driver line-up for the weekend until the last possible moment in the hopes of seeing Vettel make a return to the team. Given the team also said that the four-time world champion was still testing positive for covid-19 at that stage and, as a result, was unable to get on a flight to Saudi Arabia the chances of that happening seemed slim.
UPDATE: Sebastian Vettel has not yet returned the required negative COVID test to fly to the #SaudiArabiaGP. Nico Hülkenberg will be in Jeddah to deputise for Seb if necessary. We will delay our final decision until Friday to provide Seb every opportunity to race.
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 24, 2022
Therefore the news this morning that Aston Martin would once again be fielding Hulkenberg’s #27 car, instead of Vettel’s #5, alongside the #18 of Lance Stroll for the second race of the season, came as no real surprise.
This weekend will be the fifth race over the past two years for Hulkenberg, the team’s reserve driver, as he had been drafted in last minute to replace both Stroll and Sergio Perez for three events in the 2020 season before another early morning call last Thursday saw him once again suit up as the Silverstone team’s super-sub.
Despite only having the free practice sessions to familiarise himself with the very different version of Formula 1 cars that have been created for 2022, Hulkenberg managed to outqualify Stroll, P17 to the Canadian’s P19, though neither were overly happy with their failure to progress through the first part of qualifying.
The German had a tougher time dealing with the car in the race and finished P17, the last car to make it to the chequered flag while Stroll had moved up to be the highest placed finisher of the Mercedes customer teams in P12.
Hulkenberg is hoping that the experience last week and time spent in the simulator afterwards will have helped him familiarise himself with the car a little bit more and is looking forward to the challenge in Jeddah this weekend.
“After familiarising myself with the AMR22 in Bahrain last weekend,” Hulkenberg said. “Racing in Saudi Arabia will give me the opportunity to develop and further improve my understanding of the car. In addition, the work I did back in the simulator earlier this week
has given me some extra insight and helped me prepare for this fast and flowing track.
“Obviously, I wish Sebastian a speedy recovery, but I am really looking forward to the challenge and will be doing my best for the whole team this weekend.”
Aston Martin expect that Vettel will be back on the grid for them in two weeks for the third race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix.
Despite lack of mileage in the #AMR22, Nico coped well in Bahrain and we are sure he will do likewise in Jeddah.
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 25, 2022