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F1: Wehrlein Misses Out In China, Giovinazzi To Pilot Sauber Once More

Mercedes protogé Pascal Wehrlein isn't having the greatest of years. Having suffered this clumsy accident in the Race of Champions, he was prevented from training thanks to an injury to his back. Consequently he also missed the first round of pre-season testing with his Sauber team.

Although he did take part in the second round of testing - completing close to two hundred laps in the process, Wehrlein's training regime had been disrupted and, after taking part in the two free practice sessions on the Friday of the Australian Grand Prix, he reportedly told Sauber that he wasn't fit enough to cope with the demands of a full race.

Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi deputised and acquitted himself admirably, eventually running to a comfortable twelfth place, having qualified just behind the team's lead driver Marcus Ericsson.

Aside from the big hitters, it was Giovinazzi who impressed most with his efforts in Melbourne. Jumping into the car in Free Practice 3 he quickly found a groove and got progressively quicker as the session progressed. Having had under an hour in the car on the Albert Park circuit his qualifying efforts were eye-opening.

On Sunday Giovinazzi drove a controlled but strong debut Grand Prix. Next Sunday he'll get the opportunity to go again, as Wehrlein has ruled himself out of the Chinese Grand Prix too.

With the Bahraini race just one week later an interesting question arises. Wehrlein is unlikely to be fit to race, however were Giovinazzi to take part he would be ruled out of the in-season testing, where he would be expected to drive for Ferrari. FIA rules preclude any driver with more than two Grand Prix starts taking part.

If Giovinazzi is performing well, will Ferrari be looking to secure him a seat at Sauber for the rest of the season? Possibly with a view to getting a year's worth of racing experience under his belt before replacing Kimi Raikkonen?

This would be a blow to Wehrlein, but more so to Mercedes, who are clearly looking at Wehrlein as an option for 2018. A year on the sidelines would not help achieve that particular target.

Having won the Sauber seat on merit, it looks entirely possible that Wehrlein could lose it again for exactly the same reason.