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.”