Lance Stroll boarded a flight to Britain on Monday.
It comes after Aston Martin boss Mike Krack said the next step in his recovery from unspecified wrist and hand injuries would be a session on the simulator at the team’s Silverstone factory.
Krack has decided that if the 24-year-old Canadian is unable to race this weekend, team reserve and Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich will continue to substitute for him.
Photos of Stroll boarding the plane in Barcelona, having reportedly crashed a mountain bike near Malaga just over a week ago, depicted him without any bandaging or casts on either of his arms.
When asked if Stroll has returned to the simulator yet, Krack answered: “Not yet, but it’s the first step.
“Our plan is to have Lance in the car. Then we have Bahrain first before we speak about Jeddah.”
Some believe Aston Martin – owned by Lance’s father Lawrence – may be deliberately engineering some one-off drives for Drugovich.
Fernando Alonso, however, said that despite the 2023 car’s eye-catching performance in Bahrain last week, he would like to see Stroll back in action as soon as possible.
“We missed him,” said the Spaniard.
“With some of my comments and feelings about the car, we never knew if it was just me in a new team and a new car, or is it an Aston Martin thing that Lance could have spotted.
“We cannot do it without him so I hope he can come back very soon.”
Nonetheless, 41-year-old Alonso – having switched from Alpine over the winter – sounded highly optimistic about Aston Martin’s chances ahead of the Bahrain season opener.
“Ferrari was doing the same full race programme with the same fuel, same stops, and we were slightly faster,” he revealed.
Experienced British broadcaster and former F1 driver Martin Brundle, however, denied that Aston Martin is set to overtake Mercedes in 2023.
“I think that’s underplaying how strong Mercedes are as a team and how strong that car can be,” he said.
Nonetheless, there does appear to be quite a gap between Red Bull and Ferrari at the top and Mercedes chasing behind.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted his surprise to see how low Red Bull is now running its newly-launched 2023 car at the rear.
“If we did that, the floor would break,” he said, adding that the traction of the 2023 Red Bull is “breathtaking”.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner, meanwhile, admits to keeping a close eye on Aston Martin.
“It looks like they’ve made a big step. It looks like they’ve developed their concept and aren’t far away,” he said.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen agrees: “They look very fast.
“They do consistent long runs and when they need a laptime, they get it.”