Valtteri Bottas is a doubt for the Australian Grand Prix after suffering back pains during qualifying; the Williams Martini Racing driver had qualified sixth.
The Finn appeared to be in some discomfort following the conclusion of qualifying at Albert Park, and was first taken to the medical centre before being transferred to hospital for checks.
He will be analysed again on Sunday morning, with his participation in the race in question. It is believed he first experienced the pains during the second part of qualifying, when he felt the pain when braking his FW37.
“Valtteri has been down to the medical centre and he has been checked out,” said Williams Performance Chief Rob Smedley. “He has gone to the hospital for further checks and that’s all we know at the minute.
“Under braking he felt some pain in his back and that escalated.”
Despite the pains, Bottas was able to qualify sixth fastest, just a few tenths shy of team-mate Felipe Massa in third, and was relieved the season is finally underway.
“It was great to finally start the season and to have a very tight qualifying session,” said Bottas. “The car performed well and we were fighting with Ferrari throughout.
“Unfortunately towards the end of Q2 I started to feel a pain in my back. Under the circumstances I’m happy with sixth place, but as Felipe proved, this is not a true indication of our pace.
“Given the back complaint I had during the session, the team and I felt it sensible to get me checked out at the local hospital and we await their diagnosis.”
Massa admitted Mercedes were on a level of their own but was happy with his own pace that saw him beat Scuderia Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen into third place on the grid.
“Mercedes have been ahead all weekend so we knew that on pure pace we were fighting for the best of the rest,” insisted Massa. “Qualifying P3 means that we have done a very good job in getting the most out of the car; especially as the Ferrari’s looked strong and were pushing us hard.
“It will be a tough battle tomorrow so we need to get the start right and have a good strategy to secure a podium and really start the season on a high note.”