Pascal Wehrlein believes Manor has made “real progress”, which helped him score his first Formula 1 career point and the British team’s first point of 2016 at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Wehrlein was one of the stars of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring as he converted a superb 12th place in qualifying into a P10 finish in the race, which both represent career-best performances for the German rookie.
Speaking after yesterday’s race, Wehrlein explained that Manor has been making steady progress on its car and power unit package throughout 2016, the first year it has used a Mercedes V6 engine, and described his point as a “really great reward” for the squad’s hard work.
As we will explain in tomorrow’s UBS Race Strategy Report, Manor also benefitted greatly last weekend from not having as much downforce as its rivals and thus putting less load through the tyres, so avoiding overheating and graining them. Wehrlein was able to capitalise on this and on his detailed knowledge of the Red Bull Ring circuit to have his most competitive weekend to date.
Crucially it puts pressure on Sauber, which now falls behind Manor in the Constructor’s Championship as the team has yet to score a point. This could count for a lot financially at the end of the season if Sauber does not react.
He said: “[Finishing tenth is] very important. Not just because of what it means for our position in the Championship, but it also shows that we have made real progress.
“It’s been a step by step process, and one that hasn’t always been visible to people outside of the team, but today is a good day and a really great reward for all of us.”
Wehrlein’s race in Austria got off to a less-than-stellar start when he lined up in the tenth spot on the grid, which should have been accompanied by the pitlane-bound Williams of Felipe Massa, and not his own 12th place.
The 21-year-old quickly reversed back to his correct spot, which is not forbidden by the rules, and managed to get his car stopped before the red starting lights came on. This was crucial, as any car moving during the red light period would have been given a penalty.
But from there Wehrlein delivered a strong race performance, which involved recovering from last to tenth during the second half, as he had made his only pitstop just before the safety car was called out to allow Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari to be recovered following its tyre blowout and his midfield rivals were given a free pitstop.
“At one point I was feeling quite dejected, because we were a little unlucky with our strategy in relation to the safety car,” said Wehrlein. “I’d just pitted, so when I came out after my second stop, I was last.
“That wasn’t such a great feeling, but we just had to work with what we had, which was Soft tyres all the way to the finish – 40 laps! To finish the race in the points from that position by running for more than half a race distance on a single set of tyres is an incredible achievement.”
Manor’s racing director Dave Ryan hailed Wehrlein’s performance in Austria and agreed with his driver’s assessment that it reflected the team’s efforts so far this year.
He said: “After [Saturday’s] Q2 performance in qualifying, today’s point-scoring finish is a fantastic way to end a really positive weekend. The most important thing about it is that it shows that we’re a serious team and we’re working extremely hard to improve.
“Pascal has been looking comfortable the whole time we’ve been here in Austria and even though there was a point in the race where things were not looking so great for him, we felt sure he would turn it around.
“That’s exactly what he did and he put himself in exactly the right position to take advantage if things came his way.
Wehrlein’s point makes him the second racer to score points for Manor since the team made its F1 debut as Virgin Racing back in 2010.
The other driver was Jules Bianchi, who gave the squad it’s first F1 points with his ninth place finish at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix – a race where he was actually given a penalty for lining up in the wrong position on the grid.
What did you make of Wehrlein’s performance in Austria? Do you think it reflects Manor’s hard work to step up in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.