MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) " Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix and will be replaced by Antonio Giovinazzi from the third practice session on Saturday at the Formula One season opener.
Wehrlein completed two practice sessions Friday, but the team announced that he did not feel fit enough for a complete race distance, citing a "training deficit."
"My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance," Wehrlein said in a statement released by Sauber. "I explained the situation to the team yesterday evening. Therefore, the Sauber F1 Team has decided not to take any risks. It is a pity, but the best decision for the team."
Wehrlein completed 22 laps in the first practice session at the Albert Park circuit and 30 in the second, posting the 18th fastest-time in each session among 20 cars.
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said he respected the professionalism of the 22-year-old German driver. Marcus Ericsson drove the other Sauber car to 15th position in both practice sessions.
"This decision was definitely not an easy one for him, it underlines his qualities as a team player," Kaltenborn said. "The focus is now on his fitness level, and in such a situation we do not take any unnecessary risks. Pascal will be in China as planned."
The Chinese GP, the second event on the 20-race season, will be held April 7-9 at Shanghai.
In his debut F1 season in 2016, Wehrlein's best finish was 10th place at Austria.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings