This weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix will see a substitute driver compete in the Formula One race after Kimi Raikkonen tested positive for covid-19. But how do substitute F1 drivers fare when they are called on?

Raikkonen out with covid; Kubica to drive in F1 race instead

Ex-Williams driver Robert Kubica will make his first grand prix start – at Zandvoort for Alfa Romeo – since the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.

The one-time grand prix winner will step in for Kimi Raikkonen – after the soon to be retired Finn tested positive for covid-19.

Kubica was in the car for final practice for the Dutch Grand Prix, and qualified 18th fastest.

Because of his role as the Alfa Romeo reserve driver, Kubica gets the nod ahead of drivers who have been linked to driving for Alfa in 2022.

The Pole is the latest driver to substitute for another during a grand prix season.

Since the pandemic started, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton and now Raikkonen have missed grands prix because of a positive test.

F1 2021 | Accolades Trailer

F1 2021 | Accolades Trailer

But how do their replacements fare when called on?

The Focus has gone back to the start of the 2014 season when F1 introduced the turbo hybrid engines to look at how substitute F1 drivers have fared.

Included on the list are those drivers who stepped in to replace an injured or covid-positive driver.

This means it doesn’t include the likes of Andre Lotterer’s or Will Stevens’ one-off drives for Caterham in 2014.

Both Racing Point drivers test positive for covid in 2020

Racing Point’s Perez was the first F1 driver to test positive for covid-19, returning the result ahead of the 2020 British GP.

The Mexican was forced to sit out both races at Silverstone, before returning at the Spanish GP.

Perez was replaced in the RP20 by Nico Hulkenberg, who had fallen out of F1 at the end of 2019.

Unfortunately, Hulkenberg was unable to start the British GP owing to a power unit problem.

His luck improved a week later for the 70th Anniversary GP.

The German qualified third only behind pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.

F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Photo by Ben Stansall/Pool via Getty Images

Hulkenberg struggled with tyre management in the hot conditions on race day but came home seventh, just behind regular driver Lance Stroll.

Fast forward to the autumn, and Hulkenberg’s services were required once more.

Stroll became the second F1 driver to test positive for covid-19 over the Eifel GP weekend, with Hulkenberg driving the car for the first time in qualifying.

Although he qualified last, Hulkenberg starred on race day, climbing through the field to finish eighth.

From his two race appearances as a substitute driver in 2020, Hulkenberg’s ten points was enough for 15th in the final standings – ahead of five drivers who completed the full season.

Hamilton requires F1 substitute driver for the first time after covid

Of all the records he holds in F1, Lewis Hamilton’s tally of 267 consecutive grand prix starts is surely one of his most impressive.

From his debut at the 2007 Australian GP to the 2020 Bahrain GP, he didn’t miss a single race.

The seven-time world champion became the third F1 driver to test positive for covid-19 after the Bahrain GP, forcing him to miss the Sakhir GP the next week.

He was replaced at Mercedes by their protégé, Williams driver George Russell.

F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir
Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

In turn, Russell was replaced at Williams by Jack Aitken.

Russell qualified second to Bottas, but took the lead at Turn 1, looking comfortable in the lead.

On Lap 61 of 87, Aitken spun and ripped off the front wing, leading to a safety car for debris.

At the resulting pitstop, Mercedes fitted Russell’s car with some of Bottas’s tyres – forbidden under F1 rules.

He pitted to rectify it, losing the lead to Sergio Perez. A late puncture cost Russell a shot at the win.

He finished ninth (with fastest lap) as Aitken took 16th.

The Sakhir GP on Bahrain’s Outer layout also saw Pietro Fittipaldi make his F1 debut.

He deputised for Romain Grosjean at the Haas team.

Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson, stood in for Grosjean after the Frenchman’s horror accident in the Bahrain GP a week earlier.

Fittipaldi raced in the Sakhir GP and the Abu Dhabi GP a week later, taking 17th and 19th respectively.

F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir - Practice
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Current F1 racer makes debut as substitute driver

In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, no team or driver required a substitute driver.

The 2017 season required three drivers to step in as replacements.

After suffering a neck injury in the off-season, Pascal Wehrlein was unable to drive in the first two races of the season for Sauber.

Antonio Giovinazzi – who has qualified a remarkable seventh for this weekend’s Dutch GP – made his F1 debut in Wehrlein’s place.

He took 12th in Melbourne before a disastrous Chinese GP that featured two big shunts on the pit-straight.

After a year in the Ferrari simulators in 2018, Giovinazzi was promoted to a race seat at Alfa Romeo for ’19.

Fernando Alonso opted to skip the 2017 Monaco GP, racing in the Indy 500 instead.

His place at McLaren was taken by Jenson Button – the 2009 champion returning for a one-off race having ‘retired’ at the end of ’16.

Button managed to drag the McLaren-Honda into Q3, but took engine penalties meaning he started from the pit lane.

He got stuck behind Wehrlein in the race, later tipping the Sauber on its side just before the tunnel.

Button was slapped with a grid penalty for his next event – something he hasn’t taken more than four years later…

The final substitute F1 driver appearance in 2017 came in Hungary when Williams’ Felipe Massa was taken ill.

He was replaced by broadcaster and ex-F1 driver Paul di Resta ahead of qualifying.

The Scot qualified 19th of 20 runners, but retired from the race.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Previews
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Alonso requires substitute in two seasons

Following a mysterious testing accident in early 2015, Fernando Alonso was ruled out of the season-opener on concussion grounds.

The two-time world champion was replaced by McLaren’s third driver, Kevin Magnussen, for the first race of McLaren-Honda’s second partnership.

What happened would sum up the disaster that was McLaren-Honda.

Magnussen conked out on his way to the grid, leaving his car unable to take the start.

He would never appear for McLaren in a grand prix weekend, signing for Renault in 2016.

Alonso would also miss the 2016 Bahrain GP through injury.

Doctors ruled him out of the Bahrain race after his monster accident in Melbourne.

He was replaced by McLaren’s then flavour of the month, Stoffel Vandoorne.

The reigning GP2 champion starred and secured a point for tenth place, before going on to partner Alonso at the team in 2017-18.

Fernando Alonso Crashes At The Australian F1 Grand Prix
Photo by Alex Coppel/Herald Sun/Getty Images

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