Pascal Wehrlein had no trouble getting back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car on Tuesday in Barcelona after missing the first pre-season test through injury.
Wehrlein sustained a neck and back injury during an accident in the Race of Champions in January, prompting doctors to advise him to sit out the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The German enjoyed his first run-out with new team Sauber on Tuesday, completing 47 laps in total, and said he felt no pain in his back despite the more physical nature of the new F1 cars.
“I’m feeling good, so very happy about today. I jumped into the car and no pain, nothing,” Wehrlein explained, as quoted by Motorsport Week.
“I was pretty happy at lunchtime and was totally fine, no issues. It’s good.
“Of course you feel tired but I don’t have pain, so it’s two separate things. I think it’s good that the back is not making any trouble or pain after a few laps, and that’s a positive about today.”
Despite losing two days’ worth of running last week, Wehrlein is confident he will be back up to speed early in the season.
“I lost two days of testing so of course in the beginning I will lack something,” Wehrlein said.
“But I will catch up quite quickly and after a few races I will be back where I should be.”
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Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.