F1 2017 driver review: Pascal Wehrlein

Getty Images

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.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”