Getty Images

Sauber: Wehrlein working ‘flat out’ to regain fitness, make F1 return

Leave a comment

Pascal Wehrlein is working “flat out” to return to full fitness and make his first start of the 2017 Formula 1 season, according to Sauber team chief Monisha Kaltenborn.

Wehrlein was forced to miss the first pre-season test in Barcelona due to an injury sustained in a crash at the Race of Champions in January, but returned for the second week of running.

Wehrlein took part in practice for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, only to find that his back and neck injuries were still causing trouble, forcing him to pull out of the race weekend.

The German was not entered for this weekend’s race in China, and it is unclear whether he will be fit enough to return for the Bahrain Grand Prix next Sunday.

“From a medical perspective he was declared fine to race, already at the tests. The rest is a question of his fitness to the extent that he wants to be able to deliver 100 per cent during the entire race,” Kaltenborn explained.

“We’ve heard also now in between from doctors and all that, it is very challenging for the drivers. We heard that from the drivers themselves. He’s working flat out on his fitness.”

Kaltenborn was unable to put a firm timeframe on when Wehrlein would return, but stressed that the second Sauber seat was his despite stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi putting in some impressive displays.

“It is very difficult to say, because the body is not that logical or analytical in its development, on what day it’s going to be there, but his target and our target is to have him as soon as possible in the car, ideally at the next race,” Kaltenborn said.

“But if not, it will the next one. But clear is that he is our second driver and that’s not going to change.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.