Sauber: Wehrlein criticism ‘awful and appalling’

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has strongly defended Pascal Wehrlein’s late withdrawal from the Australian Grand Prix.

The German told his team after Friday's practice session that he did not feel fit enough to complete a full race distance after missing out on a vast majority of pre-season due to a back injury sustained at the Race of Champions in January.

His decision saw Ferrari test driver Antonio Giovinazzi return to the car at the last-minute and drew plenty of plaudits for his performance given his limited time on track.

The main accusation thrown at Wehrlein was that he should have let the team know earlier if he had any doubts, but Kalteborn believes he deserves credit for admitting his doubts in the first place.

"He just needs time," Kaltenborn told Motorsport.com.

"I think it is really awful how people think they have any sort of competence to say anything about him.

"They just have their weird views from wherever they come and have no authority at all to judge over anyone.

"I think it is rather appalling how people think they can judge this and they should look at themselves first.

"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 also insisted the team had no indication whatsoever that Wehrlein would ultimately opt to pull out of the race.

"Not at all. I would never have done this otherwise," she added.

"You cannot have an 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.

"We came here with clear intention that he is going to drive all weekend."

Wehrlein is expected to return behind the wheel for the Chinese Grand Prix, with first practice starting on April 7.

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