Pascal Wehrlein posted the sixth fastest lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, just 0.9 seconds off the fastest time of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes…but what is impressive about Wehrlein’s feat, is that he set his time in a Manor!
After qualifying a brilliant 16th in the much criticised new qualifying session on Saturday, Wehrlein went on to show that his efforts in Q1 were no flash in the pan, finishing P13 in the race, ahead of his team-mate Rio Haryanto, the Sauber of Felipe Nasr and both the Force India’s, to cap off an excellent weekend for the young German and his team.
The German/Mauritians credentials have always been very promising, and along the way he has shown potential and desire to succeed in the motorsport arena. The Mercedes protégé became the youngest ever driver to take a win in the DTM Series, clinching his first victory in the German Touring Car championship at the age of just 19, before going on to claim the overall title in 2015 as it’s youngest ever champion. Wehrlein also more recently competed in the Mercedes end of season event – “Stars in Cars”, where be beat Lewis Hamilton in the semi-final of the knock-out stages to reach the final. Though it was only a ‘bit of fun’ to celebrate the team’s championship wins in 2015, it showed the speed and potential this young rookie has, and why he is so highly rated by the Mercedes squad. His time spent as reserve driver for the German marque will also have given the 21-year-old useful insight into car set up and the workings of an F1 team to help him on his way as he embarks on his F1 career with the Manor Racing team.
As high up as seventh place at one point in the race, it was no surprise to Wehrlein that he was in the thick of it battling with other teams in Bahrain. It is only tyre degradation woes that have hampered the team since Australia, that have been holding the young rookie him back. Though the tyre issues were not as troubling during Sunday’s race, they still made things difficult for the young German in the closing stages of the Grand Prix, otherwise he would no doubt have over taken the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson too.
If Manor can get on top of their tyre wear issues, then we should see further improvements from not only Wehrlein but the team as a whole too. The squad’s decision to move to Mercedes power this year was a shrewd one, not only did that bag get them the most powerful unit on the grid, but they are now also benefiting from the skills of the World Champions young driver as a bonus of the partnership. That, coupled with bringing in former McLaren man Dave Ryan to run the team as Racing Director, stands them in good stead to produce one of their most successful seasons to date.
The commanding performances Wehrlein demonstrated in DTM to win him the title last year, have shown that German is not only fast, but sharp and ready to battle with anyone that stands in his way. He will not be put off by the big names that he may come up against as he aims to advance further up the grid, so watch this space, as he is certain to make a big impact this season!