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Sauber F1 boss Kaltenborn slams Wehrlein absence conspiracies

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has rubbished insinuations of a wider conspiracy behind Pascal Wehrlein's ongoing absence from Formula 1

Wehrlein's lack of fitness following his Race of Champions crash forced him out of the Australian Grand Prix, and prompted a decision to miss this weekend's race in China too.

When asked by Autosport for her reaction to conspiracy theorists sceptical about Wehrlein's reasons, Kaltenborn replied: "I have to disappoint you there, the story is actually very straightforward and it might just not be good enough for some people to sell it better.

"The facts are - and it's really the way it is - he had this accident in America, and most of us saw the pictures.

"You see it's quite an impact, particularly his back suffered there. There was a lot of load on the back. These kinds of things you have to take seriously.

"Since that accident he got very clear medical instructions, under which he could not do very much training.

"It surprised us he actually got medical approval to be able to be in the car again that quickly, and the doctors also told us it's the result of having such a fit condition.

"We put him in the car step-by-step, never a whole day [of testing] but half-days. But we all know there's something he's missed out, which he has to catch up."

Wehrlein is not present in China this weekend as he focuses on fitness work.

A decision about the following Bahrain race will be made early next week.

Sergio Perez said he hoped Sauber was not hiding a bigger story behind Wehrlein's situation, while sceptics argued other drivers have raced in worse physical situations in the past.

Kaltenborn pointed out Perez himself had to miss the 2011 Canadian GP following a Monaco qualifying crash, and said Wehrlein's team-mate Marcus Ericsson struggled after the practice crash that forced him out of British GP qualifying last year.

"It's been a massive impact, this compression to [Wehrlein's] vertebra," she said.

"You can't underestimate these kind of things.

"Sergio, he wanted to sit in the car in Canada, and it didn't work, so we had to pull him out.

"You cannot compare these accidents at all.

"And even Marcus after his accident last year, it was not easy to sit in the car because the body simply takes its time.

"It's just as simple as that."

Other drivers have backed Wehrlein's decision and underlined that missing winter fitness training was particularly costly with the faster 2017 cars.

Renault's Jolyon Palmer argued any driver relatively new to F1 would only miss a race as a last resort.

"For someone like him or me, who still has to prove themselves in a championship-winning car or doesn't have a massive history to fall back on, you need every race you can to try and show what you can do," said Palmer.

"I don't think anyone can criticise it, not knowing how he is feeling in the car."

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