Formula One: Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein pulls out of Australian Grand Prix

German Formula One driver Pascal Wehrlein of Sauber F1 Team steers his car during the second practice session at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia on March 24, 2017.
German Formula One driver Pascal Wehrlein of Sauber F1 Team steers his car during the second practice session at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia on March 24, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Sauber have withdrawn driver Pascal Wehrlein from the Australian Grand Prix due to fitness concerns and replaced him with Antonio Giovinazzi, the Formula One team said on Saturday.

The German injured his back in a crash at the Race of Champions in Miami in January and was replaced by Giovinazzi for the first winter test in Barcelona.

Wehrlein returned for the second test and was cleared this week to drive in the season-opening race at Albert Park but withdrew before free practice on Saturday.

"My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance because of my training deficit," Wehrlein said in a team statement.

"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."