When Aston Martin Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll was deemed unfit to drive after injuring his wrist in a cycling accident, Sebastian Vettel was rumored to be one of his replacements for the season-opening race in Bahrain. However, after employing its reserve driver Felipe Drugovich for the preseason test, the team confirmed Monday that Drugovich would race at this weekend's grand prix should Stroll not be cleared to race.
The news comes as a bit of a shock considering Aston Martin Team Principal Mike Krack confirmed to Sky Sports he'd been in touch with Vettel after Stroll's accident. Whether the four-time world champion desired to race or not, Krack did not confirm, but it appears a brief stand-in was in the cards.
As the Formula 2 reigning champion, Drogovich isn't exactly a rookie nor is he unfamiliar with the AMR23. In fact, after clocking in 117 laps during the preseason test at Sakhir, he's far more up-to-speed with the car's performance than Stroll. It would make more sense for him to compete come Sunday than either Vettel or Stroll. However, the team won't tell him "yes" just yet.
"The team will continue to give Lance [Stroll] every chance to race, pending recovery from his injury. Should he not be fit to compete, then Felipe [Drugovich] will drive the AMR23 alongside Fernando," the team said via Twitter.
Should Drugovich see the green lights Sunday, he would be the only Brazilian to have raced in F1 since 2020, when Pietro Fittipaldi briefly stepped in to replace Romain Grosjean at Haas. That said, the last Brazilian to hold a full-time seat in F1 was Felipe Massa back in 2017.
"Felipe [Drugovich] did a very good job,” Krack told the media during preseason testing. "He's a very, very reflective and calm person. And his approach is also like that. So it's very, very easy. I'm always surprised how he can stay so calm, because he's Brazilian also!
“And today as well was faultless, I think if you have watched there was not one wheel lock, there was not an apex missed or something like that. So we're very happy with what he has done."
Stroll will undergo a medical evaluation ahead of Friday's practice to confirm whether he'll be able to carry on with his racing duties. The announcement will likely come Thursday night or Friday morning.
Two drivers are currently set to make their F1 debuts in Bahrain; McLaren's Oscar Piastri and Williams' Logan Sargeant. Drugovich is on the cusp of being that lucky number three.
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