Nico Hulkenberg believes Sebastian Vettel will have to "dig deep" to get to grips with his Aston Martin AMR22 during the Australian Grand Prix weekend.
The four-time F1 World Champion will be back behind the wheel for the third round of the new season after missing races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, having tested positive for COVID-19 just before the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.
That resulted in Hulkenberg stepping in to replace him, finishing 17th and 12th in his two races. Lance Stroll fared little better, meaning the squad are yet to score a point this season.
Aston Martin, led by new Team Principal Mike Krack, have endured a difficult start to 2022, made all the more challenging by the timing of their temporary loss of driver.
Hulkenberg: Vettel has the talent to learn fast
But now Vettel is back fit and ready to race, his team have confirmed, well in advance of the Australian GP weekend.
With the outfit learning more about their car with every session, his Aston Martin will have changed a lot since he last piloted the machine during Bahrain testing, leaving him with his fair share of homework to complete.
When asked how hard it will be for Vettel to catch up, given the races he has missed, stand-in Hulkenberg said it will be an uphill task.
"Obviously, he's lacking those two races, so he will start a little bit on the back foot," Hulkenberg told media, including RacingNews365.com, during the Saudi weekend.
"I think he is very skilled and is very talented. He is capable of catching up but, for sure, he has a bit more work to do, and he needs to dig a little bit deeper to try and make up for it."
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Vettel's absence came at a terrible time for Aston Martin
Vettel's positive Covid test came at a bad time for Aston Martin, with the team suddenly robbed of his experience and feedback.
Speaking ahead of Vettel's return, Krack explained to media, including RacingNews365.com: "We had to work all test sessions, all winter testing, around these problems. I think we were not the only ones.
"[Vettel's positive test] came at the point where we really did not need it because you have no references at all and then you change the driver at the last moment, so that leaves you with only one reference, which is always quite dangerous.
"It's difficult for Nico, obviously, to jump in like that. He had no reference either. He didn't test, so you're a bit in the dark."
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Mike Seymour, and Thomas Maher look back over the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, which was won in dramatic fashion by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.