Wehrlein Returns to Sauber for Bahrain Grand Prix

Ryan Ashenhurst

Pascal Wehrlein has confirmed his return to the Formula One grid following two races that he had to sit out due to a back injury sustained in the Race of Champions event in January.

Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi has been keeping Wherlein’s seat warm, impressing on his Formula One debut in Australia with a strong qualifying performance and a clean race. But the Italian driver crashed out of both Qualifying and the race in the same spot of the Shanghai circuit.

Sauber's Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi crashes during the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER        (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Sauber’s Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi crashes during the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

It was becoming a concern that Wehrlein’s injury might have been more long-term than previously anticipated, but the young German driver is set to return for the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend. Wehrlein said,

“My back was extremely compressed in the crash and there were three small hairline fractures in the area of the thoracic vertebrae. A normal person could have resumed his job after a few days, but this is not the case with a professional athlete.

After some special training in Salzburg, I feel ready now.”

– Pascal Wherlein

There has been speculation since the injury and the appointment of Giovinazzi that there has been more going on behind the scenes at Sauber, with the Ferrari reserve driver replacing the Mercedes academy driver for the Ferrari-powered team.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 09: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 9, 2017 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA – APRIL 09: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 9, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Wehrlein has also received criticism from some corners claiming that his injuries don’t validate the time he has had away from the car. It doesn’t make sense that Wehrlein would actively reduce his own chances of succeeding in F1, but it’s a case of being ready. The last thing he needs to do is cause permanent damage to his spine, then it is game over.

Sauber are yet to score points in 2017 and the performances that the C36 has managed so far suggests it’s going to be a long, difficult slog for the Swiss outfit.

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