Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Hulkenberg replaces Perez for British GP

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:15 AM
Racing Point driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany during the first free practice at the Silverstone racetrack, Silverstone, England, yesterday. The British Formula One Grand Prix will be held tomorrow.
Racing Point driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany during the first free practice at the Silverstone racetrack, Silverstone, England, yesterday. The British Formula One Grand Prix will be held tomorrow.

SILVERSTONE, England (AP):

Nico Hulkenberg made an unexpected return to Formula One (F1) yesterday, stepping in at Racing Point after Sergio Perez tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the British Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg, who lost his seat at Renault for this season, was called in by Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

“We had to find him, and then we had to get him to England, then we needed a super licence, and then we needed a negative virus test,” Szafnauer said. “So a lot of things had to happen, and it came together with about 15 minutes to go.”

The 32-year-old German driver was immediately back in action for the first time since November, finishing ninth in the first practice at Silverstone yesterday, where no fans are attending because of virus restrictions.

“I was on my way to the Nürburgring for another racing project when the call from Otmar came,” Hulkenberg said. “That was less than 24 hours ago, so it feels a bit surreal for me right now, but I like a good challenge, and this is certainly one.

“It’s obviously a difficult situation for Racing Point and Checo. He’s a buddy of mine, an old teammate, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’ll step in and try to do the best I can for the team.”

It will be Hulkenberg’s 178th F1 race.

“Having to find a replacement for Sergio at short notice is no easy task,” Szafnauer said, “but in Nico, we’ve got a fantastic supersub who the team knows very well. He’s certainly being thrown in at the deep end, but he’s a fast learner, and I’m sure he will get up to speed quickly.”

Szafnauer is not sure if Perez can reclaim his seat for next weekend’s race, which is also being held at Silverstone.

“At this point, we don’t know. We still don’t know if England will ask him to quarantine for seven days or 10 days,” Szafnauer said, referring to health and safety protocols.

Perez believes he picked up the virus on a trip home to Mexico to visit his mother after she had an accident. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and has to go into isolation.