Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber Formula One (F1) team principal, expressed her frustrations on Pascal Wehrlein’s criticism for withdrawing from the Australian Grand Prix on fitness grounds. The 45-year-old tagged the criticisms as awful and appalling.
“He just needs time. I think it is really awful how people think they have any sort of competence to say anything about him. I think it is rather appalling how people think they can judge this and they should look at themselves first,” Kaltenborn said to Motorsport.com.
“It takes a lot for someone so ambitious to openly admit and say, ‘Guys, in these circumstances, I cannot cover the entire race distance.’ So one should rather appreciate that kind of openness and honesty, which is not easy to maintain with the kind of pressure these guys have.”
Kaltenborn defends Wehrlein
Wehrlein explained to his Sauber teammates that he had concerns over his fitness after Friday’s practice session at Albert Park, Australia. The 22-year-old German F1 driver had suffered a back injury in January during the Race of Champions event. Kaltenborn believes that Wehrlein’s actions should be praised and not criticized.
The man from Sigmaringen, Germany missed the practice in Barcelona because of the injury. Wehrlein admitted that after driving on Friday, he realized that the training setback left him short of full fitness required for the race.
Antonio Giovinazzi replaced Wehrelin for the race at Australian Grand Prix. The 23-year-old Italian is also expected to return to the next race in China on April 9.
Kaltenborn stressed that Wehrlein will not seek a specialist between now and the race in Shanghai. This is because the driver’s fitness would improve sufficiently in the interim period for the team not to be concerned.
Sauber not doubting Wehrlein
Pascal Wehrlein participated in the second week of pre-season testing at Barcelona. However, the 22-year-old just completed four half-days and was limited to short runs because of precaution.
Kaltenborn revealed that she was surprised when Wehrlein was cleared to take part in testing. This led the team to believe that the driver had returned to full fitness.
The Sauber F1 team principal stressed that she had no indication of Wehrlein’s problems after the second test. The team would not have let the driver go ahead otherwise.
“You cannot have indication for this because then you know something really isn’t right. We started building him up because that was the right thing to do. It was the right step not to put someone in the car all day, so we split it – other teams do it too, without having this situation,” Kaltenborn added.
“We came here with clear intention that he is going to drive all weekend.”
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