The Sauber team were forced to make a late replacement for the still-recuperating Pascal Wehrlein after the German driver confirmed he was withdrawing from the first race of the year after two practice sessions. Wehrlein suffered a back injury in a Race of Champions crash in December, and now says: “My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance because of my training deficit. I explained the situation to the team yesterday evening and they decided not to take any risks. It is a pity, but the best decision for the team.”
Boss Monisha Kaltenborn added they fully supported Pascal, saying: “We have great respect for his openness and professionalism. This decision was definitely not an easy one for him and it underlines his qualities as a team player.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi will complete the rest of the weekend for the Sauber team, having previously driven for them in pre-season testing in Barcelona. He made his official, if unexpected, F1 debut in Free Practice Three.