Sauber 'prepping Giovinazzi' to sub for Wehrlein in testing

©WRI2
©WRI2

With less than two weeks to go before the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Sauber may be taking steps to temporarily replace Pascal Wehrlein with reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

Wehrlein was involved in a nasty accident while competing in the Race of Champions in Miami last month, when the open-top three-wheeler in which he was competing went into the safety barriers and flipped over.

Wehrlein was quickly able to extract himself from the car and was more anxious about the well-being of his passenger, a member of the public from the crowd. However he withdrew from the rest of the competition on medical advice, which left Sebastian Vettel representing Team Germany on his own.

"It's no more than mild discomfort but my real priority for the coming year is my Formula One season," the former Manor driver said at the time.

However his participation in the pre-season testing that gets underway on February 27 continues to be in doubt, with reports that he is still suffering from a minor neck injury.

The speculation stepped up again this week after Blick newspaper's Formula One correspondent Roger Benoit reported that Sauber is taking practical steps to replace Wehrlein in the first pre-season testing if he's still not fully recovered.

"The Italian Antonio Giovinazzi is having a seat fitting at Sauber," said Benoit, who has strong links with the Sauber squad.

"The Ferrari reserve driver will perhaps test in Barcelona as Wehrlein is yet to receive the green light from doctors."

Giovinazzi, who was a close runner-up in the 2016 GP2 Series championship, would also need a seat fitting for his role as test and development driver in Friday F1 practice sessions later in the season.

Sauber has previously said on Twitter that any reports of Giovinazzi sitting in for Wehrlein in the first four-day test session in Spain "are pure speculation". Wehrlein himself hasn't posted on Twitter since January 21, the day of his accident in the Race of Champions.

Skipping the first test would allow Wehrlein extra recovery time to ensure that he is fit and well in time for the second round of testing commencing on March 7.

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