Once again the Mercedes junior will miss a Grand Prix, this time China and very likely Bahrain a week later.
Pascal’s replacement, Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi impressed TJ13 readers (The Jury) coming in second behind Vettel in the Driver of the Weekend Poll in Australia. And yet there was a sniff of chin rubbing in the paddock from pundits and observers, when the news that Pascal Wehrlein declined to drive for Sauber in the Australian opener.
Ex racers Brundle and Mansell were particularly vocal about how they’d have raced regardless and never given up their seats. Further, the doctors in Australia cleared Pascal as fit to race prior to any running.
The official line is that due to lack of fitness, Pascal’s long run times in FP1 & 2 in Australia were wildly inconsistent, revealing a lack of fitness training. Most have mentioned the crash sustained during the Race of Champions prior to season start as another reason for the fitness issues, even suggesting a hidden hairline fracture injury. Again, all very likely.
“For me the most important is that I can train intensively to ensure a 100% performance from my side as soon as possible. I will then be well-prepared for my first complete Grand Prix weekend for the Sauber F1 Team. Hopefully this can be in Bahrain but, if not, then we will take the time it needs until Russia to make sure I am completely ready.” admits the German Mercedes junior.
One cannot ignore the fact that the collapse of Manor F1, a Mercedes outfit, has had some influence on what’s occurring here. A proxy war as such. There was great surprise when it was announced that Mercedes’ man Pascal Wehrlein signed for the Ferrari ‘junior’ team Sauber for 2017. It was likely he’d stayed with Manor had they survived, after missing out to Bottas for Rosberg’s seat at the senior team.
Further, during winter testing he covered up the Mercedes logo with duct tape on his helmet during his contributions to Sauber. A political move by Sauber or one mandated by Ferrari?
Whatever is happening at Sauber, they’re not unaccustomed to ‘interesting’ driver swops and changes, Giedo van der Garde is case in point.
The next few weeks will likely reveal the truth once the race in Bahrain is done.