Nico Hulkenberg will make a shock comeback to Formula 1 for this weekend’s British Grand Prix as replacement for Sergio Perez at Racing Point.

Perez is the first F1 driver to test positive for coronavirus and subsequently be forced to miss a race since the delayed 2020 season started in Austria earlier this month.

Following multiple tests, the FIA confirmed on Thursday evening that the Mexican had tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone while he undergoes a period of self-quarantine, along with all his close contacts.

Perez will also miss next weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone after UK government guidelines changed as of Thursday, requiring anyone who produces a positive test for coronavirus to self-isolate for 10 days rather than seven.

It has paved the way for a surprise return to the sport for Hulkenberg, whose most recent F1 start came at the 2019 season finale in Abu Dhabi for Renault before the German lost his seat to Esteban Ocon for the current campaign.

Hulkenberg finalised a deal to act as Perez’s stand-in alongside Lance Stroll late on Thursday evening after undergoing a seat fitting at the team’s factory at Silverstone. He was already in the the UK and underwent the necessary tests to be permitted to drive this weekend.

Racing Point was made to wait to announce Hulkenberg as Perez's replacement while a negative COVID-19 test was confirmed on Friday morning. He is due to take part in the first free practice session. 

"I was on my way to the Nurburgring for another racing project when the call from Otmar [Szafnauer] came," said Hulkenberg. "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 team-mate and I wish him a speedy recovery. I'll step in and try do the best I can for the team."

Team principal Szafnauer added: "Having to find a replacement for Sergio at short notice is no easy task, 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."

The 32-year-old previously spend five years with the Silverstone-based squad under its former Force India guise, contesting a total of 79 races for the team between 2012 and 2016, before switching to Renault for 2017.

Hulkenberg won the Le Mans 24 Hours on his debut in 2015 for Porsche, but in 177 F1 grands prix, he is yet to finish on the podium, achieving a best result of fourth place on three occasions.

Racing Point does not have a dedicated reserve driver for 2020 and is instead sharing Mercedes’ reserves Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon.

But with Vandoorne not on-site due his preparations for the Formula E season finale, and Gutierrez having not raced in F1 since 2016, Hulkenberg emerged as the team’s preferred choice.

 

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