Antonio Giovinazzi will fill in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber for the Chinese Grand Prix and potentially the following two races, the Swiss team has confirmed.

The Italian driver was given an 11th-hour call to step in at Sauber after Wehrlein was forced to withdraw from the 2017 Formula 1 season opener in Australia due to his ongoing back injury suffered in a crash at Race Of Champions in Miami in January.

Despite taking part in the second F1 pre-season test at Circuit de Catalunya last month, Wehrlein was stood down for the race in Melbourne in order to give him more time to strengthen his back and recover.

After being pencilled in for a return in China, Ferrari's reserve and development driver Giovinazzi will return to action for Sauber after stepping in for the 2017 opener.

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Sauber also confirmed Wehrlein is expected to return to F1 action at either next week's Bahrain Grand Prix (14-16 April) or the following race the Russian Grand Prix (28-30 April).

"For me the most important is that I can train intensively to ensure a 100% performance from my side as soon as possible," Wehrlein said. "I will then be well-prepared for my first complete Grand Prix weekend for the Sauber F1 Team.

"Hopefully this can be in Bahrain but, if not, then we will take the time it needs until Russia to make sure I am completely ready."

Giovinazzi qualified 16th on his F1 race debut before finishing an impressive 12th place for Sauber who are using year-old Ferrari power units for the 2017 season.

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