(Reuters) – Nico Hulkenberg will race for Aston Martin in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah after four times world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to recover from COVID-19 in time, the Formula One team said.
Vettel missed last weekend’s season opener in Bahrain after testing positive for the virus, with reserve driver and fellow-German Hulkenberg replacing him and finishing the race 17th.
Aston Martin said on Twitter that Vettel was expected to be fit for the Australian Grand Prix scheduled for April 8-10 in Melbourne.
“Nico coped well in Bahrain and we are sure he will do likewise in Jeddah,” the team said.
Teams will be in action at the Corniche circuit in Jeddah later on Friday for the first two practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s main race.
“After familiarising myself with the AMR22 in Bahrain last weekend, racing in Saudi Arabia will give me the opportunity to develop and further improve my understanding of the car,” said Hulkenberg.
“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.”
Sunday will be the fifth time Hulkenberg has stood in for the team since he last raced full time in F1 with Renault in 2019.
The 34-year-old replaced Mexican Sergio Perez twice and Canadian Lance Stroll once in 2020 when the Silverstone-based team competed as Racing Point, with both drivers testing positive for COVID-19.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kenneth Maxwell)