F1 2017 driver review: Pascal Wehrlein

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Pascal Wehrlein

Team: Sauber
Car No.: 94
Races: 18
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P8 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 5
Championship Position: 18th

Pascal Wehrlein may have been in with a shot at the Mercedes drive for 2017 following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire, but the German youngster was ultimately lumbered with a second year at the back of the grid.

After serving his time with Manor last year, Wehrlein moved to Sauber for 2017 knowing he was set for a difficult year as the team stuck with 2016-spec Ferrari power units apparently due to chassis confidence. In reality, it was to save money.

A scary roll in the Race of Champions in January left Wehrlein with a back injury that ruled him out of the first pre-season test in Barcelona. While he returned for the second test, he immediately felt discomfort when pushing the car in opening practice in Australia, sidelining him for first two races of the year.

Wehrlein returned in Bahrain, enjoying an impressive run to 11th on debut for Sauber, but his star moment came in Barcelona. A masterful call from the Sauber pit wall led by ex-Haas strategist Ruth Buscombe vaulted Wehrlein into the points, giving him a brilliant eighth-place finish at the checkered flag.

The result would prove to be the peak of Sauber’s season. One additional point followed amid the madness of Baku, but as the rest of the lower midfield teams improved their cars and engines, Sauber struggled to keep up.

Wehrlein’s cause was not aided by a number of odd decisions in the closing races, often pitting as early as the opening lap before hoping to capitalize on drama ahead, and his failure to put Marcus Ericsson in the shade led to questions over his quality.

The strengthened partnership between Sauber and Ferrari for 2018 led to Wehrlein’s departure, with Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc taking his place. Wehrlein remains an outside bet for the sole remaining seat at Williams, but a return to DTM seems the most likely course of action.

It’s a shame for Wehrlein, for he hasn’t got a fair chance to prove his quality in F1 yet. An even greater shame is that he may never get the chance to do so.

Season High: Finishing eighth in Spain, a result far outstripping what the car was capable of.

Season Low: Missing the first two races due to a silly crash at the Race of Champions.