Nico Hulkenberg will return to Formula 1 as a surprise substitute for Sergio Perez at Racing Point – but he is not the only driver on the 2020 grid who has been a late replacement for a rival.
Sebastian Vettel (2007)
Vettel was one of Formula 1’s hottest young talents when he was appointed BMW’s reserve driver mid-2006, taking up the role when Robert Kubica replaced Jacques Villeneuve in a race seat. When Kubica suffered an enormous crash in Canada in 2007 he was ruled out of the following weekend’s event in the United States, held at Indianapolis, and BMW called up 19-year-old Vettel. He qualified seventh, scored a point by finishing eighth, and then returned to his reserve role – albeit briefly. Red Bull came calling and three races later he was a full-time Toro Rosso driver.
Kevin Magnussen (2015)
Magnussen was set to act as McLaren’s test and reserve driver for 2015 after losing his seat to the returning Fernando Alonso. But when Alonso suffered an accident in pre-season testing he was ruled out of the opening round in Australia, prompting Magnussen into action. However it was a disastrous weekend for the Dane. He crashed in practice, qualified slowest as McLaren-Honda struggled dearly in its first outing, and didn’t even make the starting grid after his car failed on the reconnaissance lap. Alonso returned for Malaysia and Magnussen did not drive for McLaren again.
Antonio Giovinazzi (2017)
Giovinazzi failed to capture a race seat for 2017 in the wake of finishing GP2 runner-up to Pierre Gasly but secured a reserve deal with Ferrari. Sauber regular Pascal Wehrlein sustained a neck injury in a freak Race of Champions shunt in mid-January and scaled back his involvement in testing, allowing Giovinazzi some track time, but was declared fit for Australia. However after struggling for fitness in Friday practice Wehrlein withdrew and Giovinazzi got the call up. He qualified 16th, raced to 12th, and impressed – though undid his hard work with two big shunts next time out in China. Wehrlein returned for round three.
Daniil Kvyat (2017)
Kvyat’s dismal 2017 looked to have ended when Red Bull’s patience snapped after he crashed out in Singapore, and the brand placed Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso for the rest of the campaign. But Gasly had to miss the US Grand Prix in order to contest the Super Formula finale while at the same time team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. eventually pushed through a move to Renault. It therefore needed two drivers for Austin. Toro Rosso got on the phone to ex-junior Brendon Hartley – who remained until the end of 2018 – and also got Kvyat back for one event. After two rounds on the bench Kvyat was on the pace and scored a point. However, he was out after that round and did not race again until 2019 – when Toro Rosso re-hired him.