Racing Point hoping Perez can return in Spanish GP after missing Silverstone double header
Nico Hulkenberg will be keeping Sergio Perez’s seat warm at Racing Point during the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix weekend after the Mexican returned a positive result for Covid-19 ahead of first practice – but Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer is hopeful his regular driver can make a comeback at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Perez completed his seven-day period of self-isolation, in line with Public Health England guidelines, and was tested to see if he could return after missing the British Grand Prix. However, despite looking “physically well”, he returned a positive result, meaning he was not allowed to enter the F1 paddock, as per F1 and FIA protocols.
READ MORE: Hulkenberg to stand in for Perez at Racing Point at 70th Anniversary GP
When asked if he was hopeful Perez could return for the next race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Szafnauer told F1: “I hope so, he feels well in himself, he was asymptomatic I think for almost all the days. He had a headache for one of the days but that could have been from anything. We hope to get him back asap.”
Racing Point had expected to perform strongly this weekend, their RP20 expected to suit the high-speed turns at Silverstone. But Stroll could only manage ninth last Sunday, while Hulkenberg didn’t even start the race.
Perez has been performing at his peak this season, so Racing Point were keen to have the Mexican back in the car in the hope he could extract the maximum from the package.
“It’s not ideal,” said Szafnauer of Perez missing this weekend’s race. “Checo knows this car well, knows our team well, he’s a great racer and qualifier. We did the best we could with calling up Nico, who we know well and he knows us well, but it’s still not the same as having your regular driver in.
“But it’s the times we live in, he tested positive for the virus, we have to take the precautions which are set out in the Covid-19 Code of conduct and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and also adhering to the guidelines of Public Health England.”
READ MORE: Hulkenberg confirms talks with F1 teams over full-time 2021 return as he waits on Perez news
Hulkenberg, who has experience with the team under their former guise Force India, will be hoping he can at least take part in the race on Sunday, after an engine problem stopped him from doing so. Szafnauer is hopeful the German will have a smoother weekend.
“I think he’ll get better and better,” he said. “He’s still on the learning curve of this year’s car - it’s different power train, different car, different aero philosophy, just different to what he has been used to. It takes a bit of getting used to. He got used to it in the limited running he did last week. A shame he didn’t get a good many laps in in the race, but I think he’ll be even stronger this weekend.”