Pascal Wehrlein: “Half a second later I would have got a penalty”

Pascal Wehrlein - Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Pascal Wehrlein was close to receiving a penalty after almost starting from the wrong grid slot for the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, before going on to score his first Formula 1 point.

The Manor Racing driver had initially lined up in the space vacated by Felipe Massa, who had been forced to start from the pit lane, but reversed into his own grid spot just before the light sequence began to start the race.

Wehrlein believed he had about a half-second window of opportunity to return to his twelfth place grid slot before the first of the five red lights illuminated, before the German drove a superb race to claim Manor’s first point since being taken over at the beginning of the season.

“I knew Massa was out, although I hadn’t seen [what happened],” said Wehrlein. “But it happened for the first time for me that there was a slot in front of me that was empty.

“I didn’t really think about it, so I went behind the next guy and I stopped. Then I saw Sebastian [Vettel] in his red car in front of me and I thought, ‘I didn’t finish qualifying behind him’. So I put reverse gear in and went backwards.

“I managed to stop the car, put it in the first gear and I saw the red light come on. It was maybe just half a second – and half a second later I would have got a penalty.”

The fact that Wehrlein stopped and engaged first gear before the light sequence began prevented him from receiving a penalty, with some teams questioning why no penalty was forthcoming after the race.