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.”
The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.
IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.
This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.
INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists
IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.
“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.
“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.