Sebastian Vettel missed the season opener in Bahrain last weekend and could miss the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia having yet to produce a negative Covid result
Sebastian Vettel is a major doubt for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The German was forced to sit out last weekend’s F1 season opener in Bahrain after testing positive for Covid, and Aston Martin have confirmed he has still yet to test negative.
As a result, the 34-year-old is not able to travel to Saudi Arabia, and Nico Hulkenburg will be on standby. “Sebastian Vettel has not yet returned the required negative COVID test to fly to the #SaudiArabiaGP,” the Aston Martin team tweeted today.
“Nico Hulkenberg 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.” Hulkenburg stood in for Vettel this past Sunday and finished 17th in a race won by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The German has previously filled in for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll with Racing Point in 2020. Following his latest stand-in duties with Aston Martin, Hulkenburg spoke to the F1 website about being back on the grid and the changes to the cars.
“It was interesting. It was difficult, very difficult to be honest, first time [racing] obviously in a long, long time,” he admitted. “There’s so many things happening in the race, it’s so dynamic, the car balance is changing, the fuel load is changing, so it’s difficult to keep up with all these changes and stay on top of things.”
As mentioned previously, Leclerc won Sunday’s Bahrain GP with his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr in second, securing a superb one-two for Ferrari. After the race the elated Monaco native said: “Yes, yes, so happy. Again, I keep repeating myself, but the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team, and we knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done such an incredible job building this amazing car.
“So for now it’s starting in the best way possible. Pole position, victory, fastest lap, one-two today with Carlos, we couldn’t hope for better. Thank you to all of you guys who kept supporting us, it hasn’t been easy, but it’s incredible to be back at the top.” Mercedes, who struggled all weekend, managed to secure a third-place finish courtesy of Lewis Hamilton, with teammate George Russell coming fourth.
The pair capitalised on both Red Bull drivers suffering issues late in the race, causing them to retire. Despite Mercedes being off the pace, team principal Christian Horner is still wary of his rivals finding their groove. “I think when you watch their car on circuit it obviously doesn’t look easy for their drivers at the moment,” the 48-year-old mentioned.
“But what we do know is their ability to bounce back. I mean, they’ve had difficult pre-seasons before and then gone and won the first race. So I think until we’ve seen… a sample of three or four races, you’re not going to get a true picture of form and, of course, with the regulations being so immature, the development rate is going to be fast, it’s going to be steep, and of course a team like Mercedes – with the strength and depth that they have – will bounce back very, very quickly if they are on the back foot.”
He also admitted Ferrari were step ahead of Red Bull in Bahrain as they endeavour to fix the problems they encountered at the end of the race.
“The positive side for us is that we clearly have a competitive car, I don’t think we quite had the pace [on Sunday], but there was some great racing between Max and Charles,” he added.
“It’s an incredibly long season with 22 races remaining, so we need to get on top of whatever this issue was and come back stronger next week.”