Pascal Wehrlein believes that Sauber’s poor form in 2017 could have cost him his future in Formula 1.
The 23-year-old scored all of the team’s points this season, but now finds himself without a race seat for next year. He felt that the performance of the Sauber C36 had hidden what he had been able to do at the wheel. A Sauber finished on the lead lap on only two occasions all year.
“In the second half the gap was a few times too big,” he explained. “Even if we had a good race in the second half of the season, you couldn’t see it as the gap was too big.
“For example at Suzuka I was lapped by the second last guy. What can you do there?”
Wehrlein’s best result all year came quite early, when he finished in eighth place in Spain and picked up four championship points.
“In terms of result it was the best race of the year,” he agreed. As well as Spain, Wehrlein also picked up a point with tenth place in the wild Baku race.
“[We] scored five points when we could score points, that’s important,” he said. “But probably in the second half of the season I had better races but you couldn’t see it.
“Malaysia was one of them, we were close to Q2 and the race was quite good,” he continued. “[Brazil] was quite good in terms of performance. There we were not so far from Q2 I think, just one or two tenths.”
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The Mercedes protégé was aware for some months that he was unlikely to keep his seat at the increasingly Ferrari-aligned Sauber for another season. The team has now confirmed its driver line-up for 2018 will consist of Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc.
His last chance of a full-time place next year now seems to lie with Williams. However, Robert Kubica appears to be the front-runner for the position. Ollie Rowland, Sergei Sirotkin, Daniil Kvyat and Paul di Resta are also believed to be in the queue.
All of which leaves Wehrlein wishing he’d been able to do more to catch the eyes of team managers this season.
“I was always giving my best. I think that’s the most important thing you can say about yourself. When the opportunity was there we took it.
“You can always do things better,” he added. “With more experience you think, ‘Ahh, one or two races ago I was doing this direction with the set-up. Now I know this was worse, I should have gone in this direction’.
“You always learn something,” he said. “But I can definitely say I was always giving my best.”
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