Lewis Hamilton stands on the precipice of matching another of Michael Schumacher's great records in Formula One after snatching pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

Should the British driver convert his performance in qualifying to another victory, it would mean Hamilton matching Schumacher's 91 race wins.

That is the narrative that could play out in Sochi after Hamilton dramatically took pole, having been in danger at one stage of missing out on the third stage of qualifying.

The prospect of a locked-out Mercedes front row was disrupted by Max Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver outpacing Valtteri Bottas.

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

There was almost the shock to end all shocks: Hamilton being absent from Q3.

Sebastian Vettel's spin in the Ferrari triggered a red flag in the closing minutes of Q2 and that gave Hamilton a problem.

Looking to cross the start-finish line in time to allow himself another lap, Hamilton managed that and found a big lap to avert the prospect of him starting the race in midfield.

He avoided a stewards' punishment over a minor infraction when leaving the track briefly, and later described the session as "horrible".

An eighth pole of the season was a reminder of Hamilton's supremacy in this sport, and nobody would be surprised were he to win this race for a fifth time in seven seasons on Sunday.

The 1-2-3 in qualifying was no great surprise and reflected the drivers' season standings prior to Verstappen failing to finish twice at Mugello. The gap between the fastest laps of Hamilton and Verstappen was substantial - in F1 terms - at 0.563 seconds.

Neither Ferrari made it to Q3, Vettel licking his wounds after his crash and finishing 15th in the session, with Charles Leclerc 11th.

THE STARTING GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault) 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 10. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 
11. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 12. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
13. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 14. George Russell (Williams)
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 18. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams). 20. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

Hamilton is at that satisfying stage of his career where records keep falling to him, yet to match Schumacher's haul of 91 race wins would have seemed pie-in-the-sky talk to the young man who made his F1 entrance in the 2007 season.

That is the figure he can sensationally draw up alongside, with what would be a seventh race win of this strangest of seasons, Hamilton having already surpassed Schumacher's record haul of podium finishes this year.

A record-equalling seventh world title is also surely Hamilton's for the taking in the coming months, and there was a touch of Schumacher's resilience about him taking this latest pole after being backed up into a position of adversity.

Aside from the likelihood of a close battle in the opening few corners, one potential strategy issue for Hamilton is that he will start on the less durable soft tyres after his narrow Q2 escape, while closest rivals Verstappen and Bottas are on mediums.

As for Ferrari, well god bless the Prancing Horse but this season goes from bad to worse. After the short-lived succour of Vettel and Leclerc both finishing in the points at the team's 1,000th F1 race, last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix, this was the latest in a long line of qualifying sob stories.

Twelve months ago, Leclerc stormed the qualifying session in Sochi, earning a fourth successive pole. They are wretchedly slow this year, which is a problem Leclerc and Vettel have to tolerate and get on with the job. Sunday's grand prix is again unlikely to bring great joy for the Italian marque.

Meanwhile, if Sergio Perez wanted to make a point on Saturday, he very much succeeded. Set to be cut free at the end of the season by Racing Point, to allow for Vettel's arrival, Perez accused some Racing Point team members of attempting to hide things from him ahead of this weekend.

Clear-the-air talks followed, and Perez qualified on the second row on Saturday, nine places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll.

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, pole): "It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone. So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint." 

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 2nd): "P2 was very unexpected and I don’t say this often but I think this was one of my best ever qualifying laps and it felt really good. Of course we want to fight for pole and wins but this year it is not possible all the time, so then to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is very satisfying and I’m happy to be on the front row here. I think the Mercedes does still have more overall pace so they will be hard to beat but I’m happy with [qualifying] and I think we really extracted more than we thought was possible and we can be very happy with that."

Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes, 3rd): "There are some question marks there, which we’ll need to look into in the debrief and figure out why there was such a gap. But P3 is actually a pretty good place to start here and I think I’m on the right tyre as well. I’ve started third here before and look what happened, so I’ll try and do the same. It’s still all to play for."

Sergio Perez (Racing Point, 4th): "I’m very happy with our performance today: I think P4 was the maximum I could achieve because Max and the two Mercedes were very strong out there. We were able to qualify ahead of our nearest rivals, which is the main thing. It was a really tough session because the wind kept changing and we had the disruption of the red flag too. It’s a credit to the team that we were able to manage the sessions so well and extract the maximum from the car."

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, 11th): "We definitely had the pace to do something good, much better than expected. Unfortunately, we missed our chance, so I’m pretty disappointed, but that’s life.
It is frustrating that we didn’t make it to Q3 because I really believe that we had the potential to go through today."

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, 15th): "When I crashed I was trying to improve my time. I hadn’t had a good first sector so I was pushing. It seems that I was going too quickly and so I lost the car. It had already happened in turn 2 and then it happened again in turn 4. I tried to avoid the impact, but I couldn’t catch it. I’m sorry to have made extra work for the team, but at least I think the car can be fixed."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 190
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 135
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 110
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 57
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) - 63

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 325
2. Red Bull – 173
3. McLaren – 106
4. Racing Point – 92 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 82

Sergio Perez has held clear-the-air talks with his Racing Point team after stating that some of his colleagues had been "hiding things" from him following the announcement that he will not be kept on.

Perez was told prior to the Tuscan Grand Prix this month that he had lost his seat for the 2021 Formula One season, when Sebastian Vettel will replace him.

The Mexican told the media ahead of the Russian Grand Prix that he had not been kept in the loop by team members since it was confirmed he will depart.

However, Perez on Friday revealed all is well between the two parties following discussions in Russia.

He posted on Twitter: "I have known this team for seven years and they are like family. I have spoken to the team and they accept my explanation.

"There's no way after seven years we can finish in bad terms, the air is totally cleared.

"And we all move forwards now. We all want the same thing: to score as many points and be successful in our remaining races together.

"We will push and go for more podiums in this eight final races together."

 

Sergio Perez is not impressed after claiming some team members have started to "hide things" from him since it was confirmed he will lose his Racing Point seat.

Perez was informed ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix this month that he would not be kept on for the 2021 Formula One season.

Sebastian Vettel will replace the Mexican at a team that will become the Aston Martin works squad next year.

Perez does not believe his relationship with his employers will be affected for the remainder of this season, but he has made fresh claims about how some colleagues are going about their business.

Asked if he thought relations would change between himself and Racing Point, he said: "I don't think so. We are focusing on the races ahead.

"Obviously since the news came out, some people inside the team tend to hide things, which I don't think is great. I think at the moment, we just have to be as transparent as possible, to make sure we achieve our goals and make sure we score as many points as we possibly can.

"It's going to be so crucial that we deliver every single point. It's very important for the constructors' championship.

"We still can have the best season in our history, you know, if we manage to finish third, and we're all going to be very disappointed if we don't get that third place in the constructors' championship."

Perez refused to go into detail about how he was told he would not be kept on, following reports he heard team owner Lawrence Stroll talking about signing Vettel through a hotel room wall.

He said, quoted on the official F1 website: "I'm pretty disappointed to be honest that such things have come out from the team.

"I think those things have to remain between the team and myself and I won't be giving any information at all, because I think it's something that has to be kept internally."

A bad week for Sergio Perez continued when he was handed a one-place grid penalty for the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, with Lewis Hamilton saying there is "no time for play" at the intense new Formula One track.

Having previously expressed surprise at losing his seat at the renamed Aston Martin team for next season to new signing Sebastian Vettel, Mexican Perez was penalised on Friday.

After exiting the pits in FP2, the Racing Point driver collided with Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, causing the Finn to spin and bringing out the red flag.

"There was a blue flag waved at him prior to turn one and it was apparent that he saw car seven [Raikkonen] in his mirrors," read the verdict of race stewards after their investigation.

"The driver argued that the pit exit is extremely long and he had reached a high speed by the time he was passed by car seven and that he was unable to take a different approach to the turn.

"We consider there is some merit in mitigating [a] penalty and therefore reduce the normal penalty for an offence of this type from three grid positions to one, noting that a grid penalty is appropriate.

"Car 11 was exiting the pits, whereas car seven was on a fast lap and therefore the driver of car 11 was wholly to blame."

Lando Norris suffered a significant crash and multiple other drivers had spins as they got to grips with the new venue, with Hamilton acknowledging the stakes are high at a high-speed circuit.

"There's no time for play here, it's a very, very serious track," Hamilton said to Sky Sports after finishing second and fourth, with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas topping both sessions.

"It's all medium and high [speed] - you don't go lower than third or fourth gear. It is so quick and there's not a lot of run-off area.

"I like it. It's definitely a real challenge. I'm not that great at it just yet, but I'm working at it. I was just trying to get a clean gap in front of me to focus on improving my driving.

"There's no amount of changes I need to do to the car at the moment because when you're experienced as a racing driver there are times when there's no point changing the car because you're not driving it well enough.

"So you've got to get to the point where you're at the limit and then you can tweak it. I'll hopefully improve for [Saturday].

"On the long run it is one of the most physically demanding circuits that we've been at for a while.

"Particularly the double right-hander, most of the time we're flat out through those sections, so it's just holding your neck [up] the whole time. I love that.

"It almost feels like Turkey [Istanbul Park]. It's incredibly fast through [turns] six-seven and eight-nine.

"It's intense, I have to say. It's amazing to experience it and it's going to be difficult to look after the tyres through those sections, but everyone is in the same boat."

Sergio Perez will leave Racing Point at the end of the Formula One season and was caught off guard by only receiving confirmation he was being let go on Wednesday.

Racing Point will morph into the Aston Martin works team in 2021 and announced on Thursday that four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel had agreed to join after his Ferrari contract was not extended.

Perez signed a deal with Racing Point until 2022 in August last year and admitted he was surprised to be told his time with the team was coming to an end.

"I got a call from Lawrence [Stroll, team owner], he called me yesterday [and said] that they were going in another direction," said Perez ahead of this weekend's Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello.

"Nobody told me anything [before that], but I already knew and figured out a couple of things and the final confirmation came yesterday.

"It's fine. Seven years with the team, I know everything has a beginning and also an end. We still have nine races to make each other proud."

Perez said prior to the Spanish Grand Prix it was "a matter of time" until rumours linking Vettel with his Racing Point seat went away.

"That was the feedback that I was getting, that the team wanted to keep me and so on," he said.

"There were some discussions in the background about contracts and so on, that I'm not willing to disclose because I think those things should remain between the team and myself.

"There were a couple of things in the contract that we went through. In the end, they officially told me yesterday that I'm not continuing.

"I didn't expect that. It is how it is."

The 30-year-old was frustrated that the lack of clarity had made it difficult for him to plan for the future, but he hopes to find another home in the F1 paddock.

"I think everything is an option right now. My main target is to remain in F1. I feel that I'm still very young and hungry, and want to carry on in Formula One," he said.

"But it has to be the right package. A package that really gives me the maximum motivation to give my 100 per cent every single lap.

"It's also got to be a long-term project, targeting 2022, because there I expect the rule change to have a major effect. That's the main reason that I want to continue for '22, because I feel there are plenty of opportunities.

"I don't expect to make a decision any time soon. I will take the time that I require.

"If I don't find anything attractive in F1, I would think about other series, other things, we'll see."

Sergio Perez is to leave Racing Point at the end of the 2020 Formula One season, with Sebastian Vettel reportedly set to replace him.

Four-time champion Vettel is said to have been offered a contract by Racing Point, who will become Aston Martin next year.

Racing Point announced on Wednesday that Perez will be leaving at the end of the season, bringing to an end his seven-year spell with the team.

CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: "Checo has been part of the Silverstone family for seven years and in that time has become one of the most complete drivers on the grid.

"Blisteringly quick on Saturday and Sunday, he's established his reputation as a tenacious racer and together we have enjoyed some fantastic moments.

"If there was ever a sniff of a podium, Checo was ready to pounce, and those five podiums represent some of the finest days in the history of this team.

"Outside of the car, Checo is a true character and a good friend, and it's been a pleasure working with him for such a long time.

"Although we will say goodbye at the end of the year, there are still nine races to go and plenty of opportunities for Checo to make some more special memories with this team."

In a statement published on social media, Perez said: "Everything in life always has a beginning and an end, and after seven years together, my time with the team will come to an end after this season.

"It hurts a bit as I bet on the team during very rough times; we managed to overcome obstacles and I am very proud of saving the jobs of several of my team-mates.

"I'll keep the memories of the great moments lived together, the friendships and the satisfaction of giving my all.

"I don't have a plan B. My intention is to continue racing here, but that would depend on finding a project that motivates me to continue giving my 100 per cent in each lap.

"I hope I can give you some good news real soon, but for now, let's enjoy together the next races."

Perez, who helped to keep Racing Point from going out of business in 2018, has managed five podium finishes with the team formerly called Force India.

It is thought Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of this year, will take Perez's place for 2021.

Sergio Perez believes rumours linking Sebastian Vettel with a move to Racing Point will soon disappear.

Four-time Formula One champion Vettel is without a team for 2021 after Ferrari opted not to renew his contract.

At the British Grand Prix, the German was pictured bumping elbows with Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll – the father of Perez's team-mate Lance Stroll – and sharing a ride in team principal Otmar Szafnauer's Ferrari.

However, Perez, who will return to the paddock at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix after missing the previous two races due to positive coronavirus tests, has no concerns about his future with the team.

"With the rumours of Sebastian, I think there's nothing I can do," said Perez.

"What I've heard from the team is that we all want to keep going, to continue. So I believe it's just a matter of time before those rumours can go away."

Asked if he had spoken to the team about a seat for 2021, he replied: "No, not really, given that my position with the team looks quite secure.

"That's the feeling that I've been getting. We are fully on this package, and we want to continue as well."

Vettel's interactions with two high-ranking people at Racing Point did not make Perez feel that his seat was in jeopardy.

"I think Otmar, he's a very proud Ferrari owner!" Perez said.

"What do I make of it? Nothing. I think everyone is free to do what they want, especially outside the racing.

"Between the elbow with Lawrence, nothing really to say. I don't make anything of it."

Sergio Perez will return for Racing Point at the Spanish Grand Prix after testing negative for COVID-19.

Mexican driver Perez was unable to take part in the British Grand Prix or 70th Anniversary Grand Prix over the past two weekends due to positive coronavirus tests.

Nico Hulkenberg filled in at Silverstone, but it was confirmed on Thursday that Perez will be back in his seat in Barcelona.

"We're pleased to share the news that Perez has tested negative for COVID-19," Racing Point said in a statement.

"The FIA have confirmed that 'Checo' [Perez] can return to the F1 paddock and he will compete for the team in this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix."

Speaking prior to the announcement, Perez said: "I've definitely missed racing and it was hard to watch from the outside. I can't wait to get on track, hopefully this weekend.

"I'm very lucky that I've only had mild symptoms, so I've been able to keep training and make sure that I'm ready to jump back behind the wheel of the car. I'm very glad I had my tablet to keep me entertained too, though!"

Hulkenberg was unable to start the British Grand Prix after Racing Point failed to get his car firing prior to the formation lap.

He qualified third for the second race at Silverstone and finished seventh, and now hopes to regain a place on the grid for 2021 following talks with Alfa Romeo.

Ross Brawn hailed Nico Hulkenberg after a seventh-place finish on his return to Formula One and revealed Mercedes almost signed the German in 2012.

Hulkenberg was unable to secure a drive for 2020 after a disappointing season at Renault last time out.

But the 32-year-old has been thrust back into the thick of the action due to Racing Point driver Sergio Perez contracting coronavirus.

Perez missed the Silverstone double-header, although car issues prevented Hulkenberg from starting the British Grand Prix.

He was back involved for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, however, and came seventh after a very impressive qualifying performance saw him third on the grid.

Formula One managing director Brawn was certainly impressed, but he admitted to long being a Hulkenberg fan, having considered the then Force India man when he brought Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes.

And Brawn believes Hulkenberg is deserving of another opportunity in the sport.

"It was going to be an incredible physical challenge for Nico Hulkenberg," he wrote in his column for F1's official website.

"I don't know how much he hurt at the end of the race, but it was great performance all weekend by someone who had just been dropped in the deep end.

"I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn't joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.

"I've always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He's a very strong driver who should be in Formula One."

Racing Point are considering an appeal against a 15-point penalty and €400,000 fine handed down by the FIA after their rear brake ducts were deemed to be in breach of regulations.

It was announced on Friday that the FIA had upheld a protest from Renault over the RP20, which was lodged in July after the Styrian Grand Prix, where Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished sixth and seventh respectively.

Formula One's governing body determined that the rear brake ducts in use by Racing Point were Mercedes designs, contravening the rules.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer called the judgement "unfair" and said Racing Point were weighing up whether to challenge it or not.

"We are still trying to digest it, we need to ask some questions and get further clarification," Szafnauer told F1.com.

"It's a bit disappointing. We thought we are well within the rules and did absolutely nothing wrong. We invited the FIA in March to come and view everything that we did. We had full disclosure.

"Thereafter, they wrote to us and said we were completely compliant. So that's a bit disappointing. However, we now have to assess the sanction that was given. The FIA have acknowledged the rules of non-listed parts going to listed parts were far from clear and ambiguous and they could be viewed from two different sides.

"They took that into consideration when docking us points for half of the points that we achieved at the Styrian Grand Prix. And we just have to look at that now and decide whether to appeal or just move on.

"The initial thought is that from our perspective, we did nothing wrong, so that's unfair. There's always two perspectives, I guess. The FIA were the arbiters on this. We now have to discuss with the FIA what is going to happen going forward."

Despite the sanction, Racing Point will continue to use the same brake ducts ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg has stepped in for Perez again after the Mexican tested positive for COVID-19 and was fourth-fastest in FP1 on Friday.

Valtteri Bottas signed a new Mercedes contract this week and he outpaced team-mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton to top the timesheets in the opening session.

Racing Point have been docked 15 points and fined €400,000 after the FIA upheld a protest from Renault over the team's RP20 car.

The protest was lodged in July after the Styrian Grand Prix, at which Racing Point duo Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished sixth and seventh respectively.

Renault asked the stewards to look into whether the RP20 was compliant with regulations and on Friday the FIA ruled the vehicle's brake ducts were in breach.

The governing body determined the principal designer of the mechanism was Mercedes, meaning Racing Point had broken the rules by copying the title-winning team.

The 15-point deduction will apply in the constructors' championship, leaving the team on 27 points.

Nico Hulkenberg will get another F1 chance at this weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after Perez again tested positive for coronavirus.

Nico Hulkenberg will get another Formula One chance at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after Sergio Perez again tested positive for coronavirus.

Racing Point called on Hulkenberg as a late replacement last week after Perez contracted COVID-19.

Perez completed a week of quarantine and may have got back behind the wheel at Silverstone this weekend if he returned a negative test.

The Mexican's test came back positive, though, so Hulkenberg will be given another chance, having been unable to make the grid last Sunday due to a clutch bolt issue with his car.

Racing Point on Friday revealed Perez is "physically well and recovering" and will continue to follow Public Health England guidance.

Hulkenberg said: "I'm excited to get going again with the team at Silverstone.

"Last weekend, it was a real step into the unknown having been away from the team for a few years – and driving a car I'd never driven before.

"I've learned a lot in the last week about the RP20, and I am ready to apply my experiences to this weekend. Racing at the same track again makes things a bit easier and the team has done a great job in helping me get up to speed.

"I think we can fight for points this weekend, which is definitely my goal. I also want to wish Checo [Perez] all the best in his recovery."

Hulkenberg missed out on an F1 seat for 2020 after he was replaced by Esteban Ocon at Renault.

Sergio Perez is to discover on Thursday whether he will return at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after completing a period of quarantine following his positive test for coronavirus.

The Racing Point driver missed the British Grand Prix last weekend after contracting COVID-19.

Public Health England advised that the Mexican would only have to isolate for a week, so the 30-year-old could race at Silverstone this weekend if he returns a negative test.

A Racing Point statement on Thursday said: "Public Health England have confirmed that Sergio Perez's period of quarantine has been completed.

‍"In line with the FIA Code Of Conduct, Sergio requires a verified negative test result for COVID-19 before he can enter the paddock. The testing process is taking place today.

‍"The team expects to make a decision on who is driving alongside Lance [Stroll] later today or first thing tomorrow morning."

Nico Hulkenberg was drafted in as a late replacement for Perez at Silverstone last week but did even make it on to the grid.

A clutch bolt issue with his car prevented Hulkenberg from making his Formula One comeback and Perez will be hoping he does not get another opportunity at the same track.

Racing Point chief Otmar Szafnauer absolved Sergio Perez of blame after the driver's positive coronavirus test, but he suggested Formula One should consider implementing a permanent 'bubble' this season.

Perez will miss this weekend's British Grand Prix having contracted COVID-19 between the Hungarian Grand Prix two weeks ago and the latest round at Silverstone.

During that time he returned to Mexico to visit his mother, who had been in hospital.

The 30-year-old, whose seat for this week has been filled by Nico Hulkenberg, said he had followed all the protocols and Szafnauer defended his driver's trip, despite Mexico being one of the worst-affected countries by the global pandemic.

"I think it's no different to Ferrari going back to Italy," Szafnauer said in a video news conference.

"There are many people that are in hotspots all around the world. A big contingent of our factory live in Northampton, and Northampton was shut down as well."

In other sports, such as basketball and cricket, organisations have implemented 'bubbles' which players and support staff must remain within between competing to minimise the risk of someone contracting coronavirus.

Szafnauer sees the merit in such a method, even if F1 operates within bubbles at actual races.

"In hindsight, perhaps we should look at that, change the code and say throughout the season you stay within your bubble," said the Racing Point team principal and CEO.

"I don't know. That's something for the FIA [motorsport's world governing body] to consider."

Even without Perez, Racing Point had a fine day at Silverstone on Friday as Lance Stroll was fastest of all drivers in the Free Practice 2 session.

Hulkenberg, whose return was only confirmed on Friday morning, placed seventh.

Nico Hulkenberg will make his return to the Formula One grid with Racing Point this weekend as Sergio Perez's replacement for the British Grand Prix.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Perez would be unable to race at Silverstone having tested positive for coronavirus, meaning he would have to self-isolate along with some members of the Racing Point team.

Racing Point needed another driver to join Lance Stroll for the fourth round of the 2020 season and have called in Hulkenberg.

The 32-year-old, who has started 177 grands prix but never finished on the podium, had been without a seat after leaving Renault following the 2019 season.

Hulkenberg has familiarity with the team having raced for Racing Point's previous incarnation Force India in 2012 and between 2014 and 2016.

A statement from Racing Point read: "Nico's experience of racing in contemporary Formula One and his strong track record ensure he is the ideal driver to stand in for Sergio Perez this weekend.

"In a bid to minimise disruption and ensure the best possible chance of building upon the team's strong start to the 2020 campaign, Nico's familiarity with the team will prove invaluable."

Having seen Racing Point call in a veteran driver for the race, former F1 world champion Jenson Button - who has not raced in the sport since 2017 - jokingly tweeted: ".@RacingPointF1 Have you lost my number?"

Prior to the Hulkenberg announcement, Perez explained he had returned home to Mexico to see his mother after she was involved in an accident, and the 30-year-old was unsure how he had contracted COVID-19.

"I'm extremely sad, definitely one of the saddest days in my career," he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

"The amount of preparation that we put into this weekend - to be 100 per cent ready for it - I know I had a great car, that the team had done a fantastic job, I'm really sad that this happened. But it does show how vulnerable we all are to this virus. 

"I followed all the instructions from the FIA, from my team. After Hungary we prepared a plane to go to Mexico to see my mum for two days because she had an accident.

"As soon as she left hospital I was able to see her. Then I came back to Europe the same way, with all the protocols in place, and I just got [coronavirus], I don't know from where. 

"I have no symptoms at all so it just shows how vulnerable we all are to this."

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