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Wolff hails Wehrlein’s decision to sit out at Melbourne

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It’s not been the easiest of offseasons or start to seasons for Pascal Wehrlein, having been passed over for potential seats with Mercedes AMG Petronas and Sahara Force India, and then suffering a still mysterious back injury that lingered into the testing season and ultimately forced him to step aside from the Australian Grand Prix.

That opened the door for Antonio Giovinazzi to make his Formula 1 debut in the Ferrari-powered Sauber F1 Team. The Italian performed a widely hailed job on debut to finish 12th after only having one hour of free practice to learn the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne and nearly beating Marcus Ericsson in qualifying.

You’d figure Wehrlein’s stock has not gone up in the last few months as a result, but Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff has actually hailed how Wehrlein has handled his adversity with a respectable amount of maturity.

“I feel for Pascal, because he has had all the bad luck,” Wolff said heading into this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“I’m impressed with the maturity he has shown to inform Sauber that he wouldn’t be able to perform at the level required in Melbourne. That took courage and selflessness, which I know earned him a lot of credit within the team.”

Wehrlein hasn’t yet been confirmed to return at Shanghai – Giovinazzi would continue in the seat if Wehrlein reaffirms he’s not up to it – but Wolff is optimistic that Wehrlein will regain his early 2016 season form whenever he returns.

“Now, he needs to build up his fitness and come back strong. I have no doubt that when he’s back in the car, he’ll prove he’s still the same Pascal.”

While Wolff was overly sensitive towards Wehrlein, he was effusive in praise of Wehrlein’s Manor teammate of a year ago, Esteban Ocon. Ocon made one of the rare overtaking moves during the race, with he and Nico Hulkenberg dispatching of Fernando Alonso in one fell swoop going into Turn 1, and that was enough to deliver the Frenchman his first career point.

“Our young drivers have also impressed me in different ways,” Wolff explained. “Seeing Esteban not only fighting with top drivers like Alonso and Hülkenberg but coming out as the winner to take his first F1 point in Melbourne made me proud.”

You can see the Chinese Grand Prix on NBCSN and online via the NBC Sports app this weekend, starting on Thursday night.

Racing world reacts to Danica Patrick’s Daytona, Indy double news

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Here’s a sampling of quotes and social media reaction to Danica Patrick’s news announced earlier Friday that this would be her last full-time season as a driver, and that she’ll race in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 only in 2018.

This ends a full-time stretch in the top flights of NASCAR and IndyCar. She was in NASCAR from 2012 through 2017, and IndyCar from 2005 through 2011.

Her’s her own post on Twitter and Instagram.

Well…. 2018 Daytona 500 and Indy 500 here I come. 🙌🏼

A post shared by Danica Patrick (@danicapatrick) on

IMS President J. Douglas Boles

“We’re glad Danica plans to return to the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil next May,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “Her final career start will make what’s already shaping up to be a terrific Month of May even more interesting for our fans.

“It’s also fitting that Danica is wrapping up her career at the place and in the race where she became a household name and captured the world’s attention in 2005 – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. We’re looking forward to seeing her back in an Indy car next May alongside all of the tremendous drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

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