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F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein defends handling of his back injury

Pascal Wehrlein Sauber F1 2017

Pascal Wehrlein has defended the way news of his back injury was handled by his Sauber Formula 1 team, and insists the Swiss squad never hid the severity of it.

The German driver sustained a compression fracture of a neck vertebra in an accident during January's Race of Champions in Miami, and missed the first test of F1's pre-season, citing a "back issue" as the reason for his absence.

Wehrlein travelled to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but withdrew from the event after Friday practice, and then skipped the Chinese GP before making his return to racing in Bahrain last weekend.

On Monday the Sauber driver tweeted the first images of himself during his recovery, revealing the severity of his state at the time.

When asked about the timing of sharing those images, Wehrlein said: "I was allowed to [release them sooner], but I didn't want to.

"I'm not someone who likes to share everything in public.

Pascal Wehrlein injured back Twitter images

"My social media I use it more as a race driver where I do my job and then I like to have a private life as well.

"And this injury was something private. In the end it was something serious."

Although the full extent of his injury was not disclosed initially, Wehrlein insists Sauber did not hide anything and he blamed people for creating "their own fantasy".

"People were judging what I was doing without knowing what my situation was.

"Everyone knew that I was injured. Everyone knew that I had to get the green light from the doctors, I had to be cleared by the FIA, so normally that doesn't happen if you have muscle pain.

"We said it's a back injury and it will be fine with some time. We didn't lie to anyone, we didn't hide anything.

"We always said I had a back injury. It's not a problem because we knew I would come back soon."

Wehrlein revealed that he had doubts about his fitness when travelling to the first race of the season.

"I knew what injury I had and how bad it was and I was never getting pressure from Sauber or from Mercedes because this injury is quite serious and it could have ended my career," he said.

"I drove the car in Melbourne and after the first day I realised it was too early for the back, too early for my fitness.

"It was a hard time for me. I always knew in my mind going to Melbourne that it could be that I'm not able to race."

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