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.