Wolff defends ‘mature, courageous’ Wehrlein

2017 Chinese Grand Prix

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Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff has defended the team’s junior driver Pascal Wehrlein who is missing his second race of 2017 due to injury.

Wehrlein withdrew from the Australian Grand Prix weekend after participating in practice on Friday, saying he did not feel fit enough to complete the race distance. Antonio Giovinazzi took his place.

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The 22-year-old suffered a back injury in a crash during the Race of Champions in January.

“I feel for Pascal, because he has had all the bad luck,” said Wolff.

“I’m impressed with the maturity he has shown to inform Sauber that he wouldn’t be able to perform at the level required in Melbourne. That took courage and selflessness, which I know earned him a lot of credit within the team.”

“Now, he needs to build up his fitness and come back strong. I have no doubt that when he’s back in the car, he’ll prove he’s still the same Pascal.”

Sauber announced today Wehrlein will not participate in this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix and cast doubt on his ability to drive in the Bahrain Grand Prix which takes place one week later.

Wolff also praised Mercedes’ other F1-contracted junior driver Esteban Ocon, who finished tenth in Australia. “Seeing Esteban not only fighting with top drivers like [Fernando] Alonso and [Nico] Hulkenberg but coming out as the winner to take his first F1 point in Melbourne made me proud.”

Mercedes ran two other young drivers including their recently-appointed test driver George Russell at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal last weekend.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Wolff defends ‘mature, courageous’ Wehrlein”

  1. If the press release is taken at face value, then Pascal has made the correct decision. I worry, however, that this maturity and courage may be used against him if Antonio Giovanazzi continues to race well. Sauber has a track record for… …odd driver decisions, and I could well imagine Antonio becoming the favoured one out of the two if, as is likely, points chances are receding by the time Pascal is ready to compete again. Which I fear could lead to Pascal losing his seat unfairly mid-season.

    At least we can be sure that Mercedes understands that discretion is sometimes the better part of valour.

    1. Given Mercedes are paying for the Sauber seat while Giovinazzi is probably racing for free, it would surprise me Sauber would turn down Mercedes money for Giovinazzi.

      The “not fit enough” thing is clearly a facade though. Giovinazzi has had like 1 Ferrari test and a few days of testing and he’s magically fit enough to do a whole race without a problem while Wehrlein who has had a full season in F1 and many tests with the fastest car on the grid last year isn’t? It’s not like full-time F1 drivers are exactly unfit or out of shape. Wehrlein might actually have something more serious going on with his back/neck which he is either keeping a secret from the media, or from everyone because he obviously doesn’t want to kill his career.

      1. As a thought, I wondered if this “Mercedes seat” includes a penalty payment to Sauber if the “agreed Mercedes driver” isn’t available.

      2. @paeschli You are mixing up experience and fitness. They are obviously not the same thing. If Wehrlein was told by his doctor not to do any physical activity after his crash, then that would’ve been very bad for his fitness level. Muscle mass will have declined, stamina heavily reduced. It takes time to regain that.

        1. @me4me
          It takes time to loose that aswell. I dont belive for a second that these couple of months has made him unfit and i dont belive for a second that two weeks more is gonna make him fit again. Thats nonsense both ways.

          1. @rethla Believe what you want. If Wehrlein has been sitting on his sofa for 3 months while the others have been on training camp, then it’s hardly a surprise that he’s struggeling while the others are not.

            His training started at the time of the 2nd pre-season test, so that’s a couple of weeks now. Surely he’ll be back in his car soon.

          2. Jorge Olivier
            4th April 2017, 22:30

            No really, it only takes like a week to lose fitness, the problem with back injuries -and neck and abdominal injuries- is that you can’t exercise at all. With any other injury you can, just avoiding the injured area. Now, it doesn’t take too long to recover fitness if you were in good shape before, less than three months without exercising can be recovered in three weeks, at least to a decent level, and you only really struggle the first three days or four days. If Wehrlein hurt his back in January and couldn’t do any exercise until late February his should be ok by now. There’s something else here, maybe he thought his back was ok but the pain has returned, or another thing we don’t know.

      3. @countrygent

        Given Mercedes are paying for the Sauber seat while Giovinazzi is probably racing for free, it would surprise me Sauber would turn down Mercedes money for Giovinazzi.

        On the other hand, they could substitute Mercedes money they get for Wehrlein, with Ferrari money they could get for Giovinazzi. Either as a direct sum, or possibly as a reduction on their Ferrari power units.

        1. That should have been @paeschli, no idea what happened there for it to be replaced by countrygent (I used copy-paste…)

    2. So far we have seen Kaltenborn (and Sauber) be full of praise for Wehrlein being open about it. And I don’t think Sauber needs to be too worried, as they get a lot of goodwill from their engine partner (and maybe money too) to run Giovanazzi, who also looks to be good enough to give the team a solid chance on capitalizing on any opportunity for points that arises (probably about the same as Wehrlein).

      1. If Ferrari had to place Giovinazzi next year it would cost them, they could not fit him in this year but now they could just give Sauber the money to pay off Merc and place a Ferrari driver into F1 in place of a direct rivals young driver? Depends how much faith Ferrari have in Giovinazzi

      2. @bascb
        I agree, Monisha is really a woman to take at facevaule when she talks about her drivers…

        Suddenly throwing in the towel the day before the race and leave the team in a hamstered situation is the opposite of “being open about it”. More so since Australia was Saubers biggest chance for points.

  2. I do hope that he avoids some of the unfair criticism he received by a minority in Australia, only Wehrlein and those close to him can make a sound judgment on his condition, it’s easy for some to say that he should tough it out but the last thing he needs is to be caught in another major accident whilst he’s still recovering.

    1. But he’s not still recovering from injury, supposedly he’s recovered but just unfit. So get fit doing the race weekends! It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How is the reserve driver any fitter? (Though he soon will be with all the time he’s being given on track – a good reason then for suggesting Wehrlein gives up on 2017 entirely given he’s not going to reach Giovinazzi’s level of fitness?)

      1. It could well be he is suffering from higher levels of fatigue linked to the injury he received at RoC. Soft tissue injuries take time to heal and even once fully healed related muscle stamina takes time to return.

        He wasn’t able to take part in the firs of the pre season tests and although managed to run in the 2nd test, he wouldn’t have been putting his body through the level of stress that it undertakes during a race.

  3. Webber who raced in pain with a unhealed broken leg for 1l2 season, said about this on air in Melbourne….. you never give up your seat in F1 or you might not get it back!!

    1. I completely agree. I haven’t seen a driver give up a race seat so willingly in the past.

      Honestly, I think it’s really embarrassing that without the instructions of a doctor or physiotherapist, a driver himself thinks he’s not fit to race 2 of the opening weekends despite doing a large number of laps during pre season testing. I think it’s the exact opposite of courage.

    2. Back injury is completely different league to broken leg, ribs, or catching a stomach bug. Someday when you suffer from a back injury you will know how bad it is compared to leg injury before passing judgement on someone. Few years back I had injured my back while I was in himalayas and it took me good 4-4.5 months to recover and months after that I had pain in my back when I restarted my workouts.

      1. C you might want to look up Webber’s leg fractures before you go mouthing off in here about ” LEAGUES” and YETI stories

    3. @nosehair I’m a Webber fan, but I have to disagree.

      1) Every injury is different. A back injury’s not the same as a leg injury

      2) Webber should not have come back before being healed. Because now everyone thinks about that season that it’s only Vettel’s bad luck has kept Webber in it, conveniently forgetting Webber’s injury. And I can’t blame them. If MW came back prematurely that’s his problem

      1. I think you are mixing up seasons. He had a broken leg starting 2009, but he did fine that year, scoring two strong wins. In 2010, he finished the season with a small fracture in his shoulder, which he didn’t tell anyone in the team about.

        1. Yes Adrian 4 races with a fracture only his engineer was aware.

      2. Montreal a broken tibia and a broken fibia is very different to a sore back..webber raced f1 in extreme pain to hold on to his hard earned Seat.. l will go with webber’s opinion on this, rather than yours which is from a armchair…and there is something fishy about this whole story!!

        1. sore back

          is this the official diagnosis?

          asking for a friend

        2. @nosehair.

          Broken leg bones may be considerably painful, but, with pins and plates hold the bones in place to heal. I don’t know the level of injury Wehrlein received, but, back and neck injuries often affect nerve groups. A slight inflammation around the spine can mean weakness and/or lack of feeling in your hands and feet. Normal day to day activity may not cause the same result, sitting in a confined space for an hour could well trigger it.

  4. Wehrlein seems like a really strange bloke.

  5. Such a courageous young man…

  6. This guy is finished. Cactus

  7. Sauber should remove the pea from under Princess Wherleins seat so she is more comfortable and can race.

    1. @Markp Spoken like someone who has never suffered from a back injury. If his injuries are bad enough to keep him from racing, which is obviously the big passion of his life, then he must be in agonizing pain. No one can drive with back spasms or the like. Give the kid a break.

      1. @ferrox-glideh

        Fully agree with you… Nothing as excruciating as back pain and associated reflected pain.

      2. His back is fully recovered according to his doctors, he says himself that the injury is healed and it´s not a problem.
        It´s in his head, must have a huge mental dip…his confidence is probably very low at the moment.

      3. @ferrox-glideh

        I’ve had a terrible back injury, as well as a really excruciating tail bone injury. I believe that I went ahead with my doctor and physio therapists advice on whatever they told me. If they said I was ready to do something, I did it even though sometimes it did cause pain.

        If Pascal had the go ahead from his doctors and physio… and he still hasn’t healed enough to complete a race. I think he really needs to check his motivation levels to recover. We’ve seen F1 drivers recover from far more serious injuries with more dedication and spirit that he has shown, and we’ve seen most of them race despite the pain.

        Toto calls him courageous… I call him the opposite.

  8. Only Wherlein and his doctor know exactly what happen. And of course Sauber boss. Period.

  9. I say if Mercedes had taken Wehrlein (instead Bottas) for drive and just for the 2 races, maybe 3, who left to replace him?

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