New Sauber recruit Pascal Wehrlein was forced to withdraw from the weekend’s Race of Champions Nations Cup event in Miami, Florida after being involved in a frightening accident during the first day of competition.
Competing against Williams driver Felipe Massa in one of several head-to-head races, the German lost control of his three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot machine before flipping dramatically into the barriers.
He and his passenger emerged from the crash shaken but unscathed, but Wehrlein withdrew from the remainder of the stadium-based meeting on doctors’ advice, leaving Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to compete alone for Team Germany in the Nations Cup.
“I’d really like to race again and I feel fine, but the doctors have advised me to rest so of course I will take their advice,” said Wehrlein. “It’s no more than mild discomfort but my real priority for the coming year is my Formula One season.”
Remarkably, Vettel went on to win the Nations Cup single-handedly, defeating Team America’s Nascar-racing brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch in the final.
It was Vettel’s seventh triumph in the competition, having won the event six times in succession alongside Michael Schumacher from 2007-2012.
Immediately prior to the crash, Felipe Massa beats Pascal Wehrlein to the line during the Race of Champions on Saturday 21 January 2017 at Marlins Park, Miami, Florida, USA. © Race of Champions 2017
“The Race Of Champions is a great competition, but yesterday I went out very early,” said Vettel, referencing his early exit from the individual ‘Champion of Champions’ event - an event he won in 2015.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the States empty-handed. I started on the wrong foot but it helped me to take it a bit more seriously.
“Today I just wanted to get some more time on the track. I found the rhythm straightaway and it felt pretty good. Unlike yesterday, I got along with all the cars today. But that’s the way it goes: sometimes you wake up and it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It obviously worked out well but of course it would have been nicer to share this victory with Pascal.”
The overall Race of Champions ‘Champion of Champions’ title went to seven-time Grand Prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who defeated nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen in the Grand Final.
Massa and fellow F1 race winner David Coulthard were knocked out in the semi-final stages. Former McLaren racer Jenson Button, meanwhile, made it as far as the quarter-finals.