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Wehrlein feeling ‘well prepared’ for Sauber debut despite winter injury

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Pascal Wehrlein says he feels “ready and well prepared” for his first Formula 1 outing with Sauber in Australia next weekend despite suffering a neck and back injury over the winter break.

Mercedes junior driver Wehrlein made his first F1 start in Australia last year with Manor, spending a full season with the minnow team and scoring just its second top-10 finish in seven years in Austria.

Wehrlein was linked with drives at both Mercedes and Force India for 2017, but ultimately landed at Sauber following Manor’s closure.

Wehrlein was forced to miss half of pre-season testing due to injuries sustained in a roll at the Race of Champions in Miami, but despite having just two days in the new-style 2017 Sauber F1 car, the German feels ready to go in Australia.

“The Australian Grand Prix will be very special for me and also for the Sauber F1 Team,” Wehrlein said.

“It is the beginning of my new role as a Formula One race driver in the Swiss team, and I am sure when those five lights go out it will be a unique moment on the race day.

“During the second week of pre-season testing I had productive days, where I was able to get quite familiar with the Sauber C36-Ferrari procedures.

“After intense physical preparations in the last few weeks I am excited about going to Melbourne, and I feel ready and well-prepared for the challenging season opener.

“It looks promising at the moment for me, but we never know until we get to Melbourne. I have full trust in our teamwork.”

After spending much of 2016 battling with financial troubles, Sauber will be aiming to move up the grid this year following its takeover by Swiss investment firm Longbow Finance.

The team finished 10th in the constructors’ championship last year, beating only Manor, and will now be looking to make up early ground with 2016-spec Ferrari power units.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”