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Sauber F1 driver Wehrlein to miss Barcelona pre-season test

Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein will miss the first Formula 1 pre-season test because of a back injury, with Ferrari third driver Antonio Giovinazzi stepping in, Autosport understands

The German was injured in an accident during last month's Race of Champions event and has since undergone several medical examinations, with the focus initially on his neck.

The tests have revealed a back injury and the German has been advised to miss the first pre-season test at Barcelona, which starts on February 27, to allow for more recovery time.

Sauber has yet to confirm the move but an announcement is expected in the coming days.

Further checks will be carried out before deciding on Wehrlein's availability for the second test that begins on March 7.

Giovinazzi will split testing duties with Marcus Ericsson, with each driving two days apiece at Barcelona.

Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn has been holding discussions with Ferrari counterpart Maurizio Arrivabene regarding running the Italian this year.

The Swiss team is interested in making the GP2 runner-up its reserve driver but such a deal has been made complicated given his Ferrari duties.

But Ferrari, which has supplied engines to Sauber since 2010, has made Giovinazzi available to drive in the first test.

Autosport understands there is an option for the arrangement to continue into the second test should Wehrlein not recover in time.

Giovinazzi drove an F1 car for the first time earlier this month when he tested Ferrari's 2015 car at Fiorano.

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