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Daniel Ricciardo passed fit for Bahrain GP

Daniel Ricciardo will race in Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix after recovering from COVID-19.

The 32-year-old Australian tested positive last week and was unable to participate in three days of pre-season testing in the Gulf kingdom.

“Daniel has now returned a number of negative tests and will therefore return to the paddock on Thursday ready to compete in this weekend’s Bahrain GP,” his McLaren team said on Wednesday.

“Daniel has been feeling better each day as he continued to recover while in isolation following local regulations in Bahrain.”

Rivals Alpine had offered McLaren their Australian reserve driver Oscar Piastri as a stand-in should Ricciardo be unable to race.

Practice for the opening race at Sakhir is on Friday and Ricciardo will go into it without having driven the car since Barcelona on February 24.

Bahrain is something of a home race for McLaren, with the team majority owned by the Gulf kingdom’s sovereign investment fund Mumtalakat.

Ricciardo finished seventh last year with team mate Lando Norris fourth.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel has warned Lewis Hamilton he expects Max Verstappen to flourish as Formula One’s defending world champion.

Hamilton and Red Bull driver Verstappen are set to renew their rivalry on Sunday.

Verstappen 24, will line up on the grid as the reigning champion for the first time in his career after he beat Hamilton at last December’s hotly disputed finale in Abu Dhabi.

And Vettel, who won four consecutive titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, expects Verstappen to move to another level with title number one under his belt.

“From what I remember, it is a boost,” said Vettel, 34, ahead of his second campaign as an Aston Martin driver.

“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders and it is a great feeling to start the season as a world champion.

“You have the number one on your car, which is a privilege and we would all like to be in that position.

“I didn’t see it as an extra burden, but a boost, and Max will probably feel the same.”

Verstappen joins Hamilton, Vettel and Fernando Alonso as the fourth world champion on this season’s 20-man grid.

Mercedes might have won the past eight constructors’ championships – a record-breaking run in F1 – but the Silver Arrows have been unsettled by the sport’s greatest revamp of its technical rules in a generation.

Speaking after last week’s final test in Bahrain, Hamilton said he feared his struggling Mercedes machine would not allow him to fight for victory. In contrast, Verstappen’s Red Bull team appear in good shape.

“We learnt a lot at testing in Barcelona and Bahrain and I’m very excited to turn our attention to racing now,” said Verstappen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where we are compared to the rest of the grid come qualifying on Saturday.”

with PA

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