Sebastian Vettel’s participation at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend this weekend remains in doubt, with the German still unable to provide the negative Covid-19 test result required to enter the country.
The four-time Formula 1 world champion missed last weekend’s season opener in Bahrain after testing positive for the illness while at home in Switzerland, and was replaced by compatriot Nico Hulkenberg for the race in Sakhir. His Aston Martin team said they believed the 34-year-old would be able to race at the second race in Jeddah, but he remains in Europe with the weekend set to begin tomorrow with two practice sessions around the street circuit.
Hulkenberg has travelled to Saudi Arabia with the team and is on stand-by to race for the team again, having stood in for current Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll and former team-mate Sergio Perez for three grand prixs when both tested positive for Covid-19 during the 2020 season.
In a statement posted on social media, Aston Martin said: “Sebastian Vettel has not yet returned the required negative Covid test to fly to the Saudi Arabia GP. 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’s new AMR22 struggled in Bahrain, with Stroll and Hulkenberg mired at the back of the pack alongside the likes of Williams and McLaren, the car lacking straight line speed and looking heavy through the corners.
Vettel joined the team ahead of the 2021 campaign after departing Ferrari, with owner Lawrence Stroll promising to spend heavily in order to challenge for the world championship within the next five years. Vettel’s run of four consecutive world championships came between 2010 and 2013.
When Nikita Mazepin’s Haas seat became vacant following the Russian’s sacking by the team over familial links to president Vladimir Putin, Hulkenberg was one of the names linked to the drive but eventually the American outfit opted for a reunion with 29-year-old Kevin Magnussen, the Danish driver it had dropped at the end of 2020 in favour of Mazepin and the sponsorship money he was able to provide.