Sauber's Wehrlein withdrawn from Australian Grand Prix

Formula One - F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 23/03/2017 Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein of Germany poses during the driver portrait session at the first race of the year. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sauber have withdrawn driver Pascal Wehrlein from the Australian Grand Prix due to fitness concerns and replaced him with Antonio Giovinazzi, the Formula One team said on Saturday.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

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)