Formula 1: Nico Hulkenberg out of F1? Not so fast

Nico Hulkenberg has been tipped to replace Sergio Perez at Racing Point for this weekend’s British Grand Prix Formula 1 race at Silverstone Circuit.

There were not many changes to the Formula 1 driver lineup from the 2019 season to the 2020 season, as 18 of last year’s 20 drivers returned to the sport this year, all with the same teams.

It was a rather tame offseason compared to the previous year, during which time only eight drivers stayed put, six moved to new teams, six left the sport and six others arrived as their replacements.

Still, however, it resulted in disappointment for some, particularly Nico Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg, who finished as the “best of the rest” in seventh place in the 2018 driver standings, was replaced at Renault by Esteban Ocon following the 2019 season, and he was unable to land a new ride.

Hulkenberg had not been without a full-time ride since he was a test driver for Force India in the 2011 season, and he had not been completely out of Formula 1 since 2009, the season before he made his debut driving full-time for Williams. While Ocon did it by replacing Hulkenberg, the path in terms of going from having a ride to not having a ride to having a ride again can be challenging, especially for a veteran who is booted out in favor of one of the sport’s younger drivers. Hulkenberg is 32 while Ocon is 23.

But Hulkenberg may be back in Formula 1, and as soon as this weekend.

Now the German has been tipped to replace Sergio Perez at Racing Point for this Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, and likely next Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at the same venue.

Perez tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss at least the first of these two 52-lap races around the 18-turn, 3.661-mile (5.892-kilometer) road course in Silverstone, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, and possibly the second with the United Kingdom government having extended the isolation period for those who have tested positive from seven to 10 days.

Racing Point do have Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne already on their reserve list, but Gutierrez has not competed in a race since 2016 and Vandoorne competes in Formula E and is slated to be in Berlin for their six-race sprint over a nine-day span to wrap up the 2019-2020 season, which hasn’t seen any action since late February.

Hulkenberg drove for Racing Point when they were known as Force India in 2012 and then again from 2014 through 2016. He is ironically the driver who most recently beat Perez in a head-to-head teammate battle in the driver standings, having done so back in 2014. Perez’s five-year streak of winning teammate battles is the longest active streak in the sport by two years.

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The British Grand Prix is set to be broadcast live on ESPN from Silverstone Circuit beginning at 9:10 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 2.