John Fitzpatrick, Pascal Wehrlein, Dave Ryan, Manor, 2016

Why Wehrlein’s points prediction can come true for Manor

2016 F1 season

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On his announcement as Manor’s new F1 driver yesterday Pascal Wehrlein was quick to name the team’s goal for the year ahead: “I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way”.

This was greeted with scepticism by some, and perhaps with good reason: Manor were nowhere near scoring points last year.

But with a power unit sourced from world champions Mercedes there’s good reason to believe they can be back among the points-scorers in 2016.

Manor’s performance in 2014 and 2015

Manor brought up the rear throughout 2015. A typical race saw them finishing two laps down on the rest of the field, sometimes as many as four. Only once did they finish on the lead lap, in the USA, thanks in part to a series of Safety Car interruptions which helped them regain lost laps.

This represented a substantial step backwards from their position in 2014. Having been 4.33% slower than the front-running pace on average, their deficit rose to 6.46% last year:

But Manor has a chance to reverse this loss and then some in the season ahead. The biggest performance gain should come from the power unit. Having used a 2014-specification Ferrari over the last two seasons, this year will see them use a current 2016 Mercedes which will likely prove to be the standard-setter.

And while the team’s 2015 drivers had to make do with a tweaked version of their old chassis, the new MRT05 for 2016 will have benefitted from earlier attention from their designers.

Given their limited resources it’s unrealistic to expect Manor to suddenly leap to the level of Williams or Force India – despite also using gearboxes and suspension components from the former. But the performance of Mercedes’ two customer teams indicates the level they will be aiming for – and it is potentially in front of what their other rivals could reach.

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Manor’s competition in 2016

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Yas Marina, 2015
Toro Rosso will have to make do with year-old kit
The performance of the Mercedes power unit will make the Manors much quicker down the straights. Depending on how much ground Renault and Honda make up over the winter a Manor-Mercedes could make them a headache for F1’s two struggling engine manufacturers.

The same may also go for Toro Rosso, who will be using a year-old Ferrari power unit. Their change from Renault was only confirmed late last season, giving them less time to prepare than their rivals.

Manor can also expect to have a reliable power unit at their disposal. The Mercedes is already one of the most dependable in the field, and the manufacturer places tighter restrictions on their engine customers than their factory teams precisely to guarantee reliability.

While Mercedes are consolidating a position of advantage, the likes of Renault and Honda are pushing to make up substantial performance deficits – which invariably means making fewer concessions to reliability.

Manor’s drivers in 2016

Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes, DTM, Hockenheimring, 2015
Consistency netted Wehrlein the 2015 DTM crown
In 2014 this team demonstrated that with a current-specification power unit, a quality driver and a little luck it could deliver points. The much-missed Jules Bianchi memorably drove his Marussia to ninth place in the Monaco Grand Prix.

In Wehrlein the team again has a manufacturer-backed driver who has been able to familiarise himself with current F1 equipment in test sessions and a huge amount of simulator time. Crucially, he knows the Mercedes power unit which is new to the team this year. Although he has spent the last three years out of single-seater competition he was at least on the grid in a competitive championship – which he won.

The key strength Wehrlein brings to Manor is consistency: he is a driver who understands the aphorism ‘to finish first you must first finish’. In the last three years he has started 38 DTM races and finished all bar three of them. Arguably just one of those three retirements was his fault: one was due to damage sustained when he was released from his pit box too soon, and another was a celebrated incident last year when he was taken out by his championship rival’s team mate.

To maximise their best chances of scoring points, which is likely to be on days when several of their rivals fail to see the chequered flag, Manor need a driver who is going to stay out of trouble and bring the car home. Wehrlein looks like exactly the man for the job.

2016 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 55 comments on “Why Wehrlein’s points prediction can come true for Manor”

    1. I wish Mercedes would drop this stupid habit of letting their drivers go the DTM route. Think of the exciting things Ocon could do in a GP2 car next year instead of (probably) going off the single seater radar and drive in DTM.

      1. Ocon himself wanted to drive in DTM instead of GP2. I don’t actually remember his reasoning for this(it was in an Autosport article) but he’s clearly not a stupid guy. Plus, he’ll be combining DTM with reserve driver duties for Renault which he could not have done if he was in GP2

        1. Ocon knows what’s expected of him, and so he’s very likely speaking with his employer’s agenda in mind. I have _zero_ belief that a single seater driver aspiring to be in F1 one day would really prefer to be in DTM over GP2, unless he’s afraid the level of competition will be too hard – but fear of competition is not a typical trait of a racing driver.

        2. @montreal95 Ocon either said that under duress, or was thinking in terms of his long-term affiliation with Mercedes. Any driver as obviously F1-destined as Esteban would naturally prefer GP2, and I’m sure that in honesty Ocon would prefer to be in the seat DAMS are wasting on Nicholas Latifi than a DTM. That said, contacts are every bit as important as results in the competition for F1 seats, so a DTM drive allows Ocon to nurture his relationship with Mercedes in 2016 without being expected to be in title contention (as he has been for the past two seasons) and focus on his mileage with Renault before an almost inevitable F1 promotion in 2017. I bet Mercedes have recovered from being rejected by Verstappen now, because, in my opinion, this kid is just as good.

          1. @william-brierty You’ve summed it up pretty well I think. But in my view, and let me know if you agree with me or not, connections are even more important than results in today’s junior ladder, since there have been quite a few drivers who hadn’t made it to F1 despite their obvious potential and good results because they didn’t have connections while others, with slightly less results but more connections had their chances.

            I’m not sure Ocon’s as good as Verstappen but time will tell. Not too excited about him, as he seems to be a “cruise and collect” type of driver. If anything he reminds me of Prost. A very high praise indeed but subjectively this is a type of drivers I certainly respect and admire their ability but absolutely cannot be passionate about. MV is much more “my” type of driver

            1. @montreal95 In terms of the balance between contacts and results, Robert Wickens is an interesting example. FR3.5 champion and undoubtedly F1 grade, but never got over the threshold of a manufacturer until he signed with Mercedes in DTM. Not that manufacturer affinity is always a help: Mercedes don’t even seem willing to fund a GP2 campaign for Rosenqvist this year. Bird received copious mileage in a Mercedes F1 car but never got anywhere near a drive, despite impressive credentials. The bottom line is, if you want an F1 drive, either demonstrate yourself to be an extraordinary talent or hope you are in the right place at the right time: there is no step-by-step formula.

              Ocon is an extraordinary talent, have no doubt, which is why Mercedes are already planning for his F1 debut next year. I have seen this kid in karts and have seen some of his races in French club racing, and he has rally driver-esque levels of affinity with a sliding car. He scoops up slides with such ease it allows him to launch the car at the apexes with stunning aggression. He has never looked much of a “cruise-and-collect” driver to me…

              …albeit it was a justified strategy. He was under pressure to take the title newly absorbed into the Mercedes program, he didn’t have the pace of Trident and Ghiotto and he needed the points. I wouldn’t it’s his default approach; similarly to Lynn in 2014, we saw a much more aggressive Alex in 2015. Not that “cruise-and-collect” did Prost any harm…

            2. @william-brierty Yeah, there is no proven path. It’s basically just show your talent, get connections and hope for the best. Robert Wickens is a lost talent definitely. Rosenqvist too(or will be). Bird I feel didn’t make the most of his chances, either cause of luck or lacking that very last half a percent of performance. Still, he would’ve made a competent F1 driver if given the chance.

              About Ocon, I only saw him in F3 and GP3. Always smooth always playing the percentage game to great effect. I don’t remember him powersliding apart from one race at the Norisring in F3. Winning the title with only one win last year. I admire his results, winning F3 and GP3 year , after year as a rookie in a very competitive fields is an amazing feat, but I was rooting for Ghiotto to win last year. Nothing against Ocon and I had nothing against Prost either,but I’d take Senna over Prost anytime and Verstappen looks to me more Senna-esque at the moment

      2. I don’t see any point in driving in GP2. It doesn’t get much TV coverage, it costs a small fortune to race in, and even if you win the series championship you aren’t guaranteed an F1 seat.

        1. @drycrust I don’t agree. First of all, Ocon is in the Mercedes junior programme, so he doesn’t have to worry about the GP2 budget (which is peanuts for Mercedes anyway), nor about the F1 seat. Media coverage for GP2 is actually pretty much OK, as they run during most F1 weekends and so they get to show themselves in front of most F1 fans, pundits, team bosses, actual F1 drivers, … . GP2 races are streamed and aired as well.

          But these are all side arguments. The big point is that a driver that aspires to be in F1 one day can do no better than hone his skills in the top-end single seater feeder series that is GP2. They learn how to handle pit stops, the Pirelli’s, having >500HP in a lightweight car, all the tracks they drive on feature in F1 as well.

          I mean, drivers that want to go to MotoGP don’t tend to jump from Moto3 to British Superbikes or something, they go to Moto2 and then MotoGP. There’s a reason for that. Same for single seater racing.

          1. Palmer only got a full season seat this year. Only about 15% of GP2 drivers end up in F1 (according to Wikipedia (, meaning 85% don’t. I think a GP2 driver, and moreso for a driver of a lower series, has to expect they won’t actually get into F1. I don’t like it, but that is a reality of this racing series.

            1. @drycrust GP2 has its fair share of problems, but graduation rate is irrelevant for a driver backed by a junior programme. Their plan is F1, his plan is F1, the only important point is which series would be the best to hone his skills in as a preparation for F1. And that’s GP2 over DTM, no doubt.

              Also, have you calculated which percentage of drivers graduated from DTM to F1 for the past 10 years? Would I be wrong in thinking it’s an awful lot lower than 15%?

              Also also, which series provides better graduation rates than GP2?

              Also also also, graduation rates will always be rather low. The single seater ladder is a pyramid, of which the base is much more massive than the top. It simply isn’t possible, nor even desirable, to be wishing for 50% graduation rates (or something like it) – there are only so many seats in F1, only the very best should graduate, and drivers in F1 shouldn’t be ousted after 1 or 2 years (if they’re doing well). A driver in GP2 has to expect not getting into F1? Well, I’ll say more: a driver in any motorsport series has to expect they won’t get into F1.

              Also also also also, of the 21 drivers that are confirmed for the 2016 season:
              – 4 entered before GP2 existed
              – 9 entered through GP2
              – 4 entered through FR3.5
              – 2 entered through GP3
              – 1 entered through F3
              – 1 entered through DTM
              Paints a clear picture, doesn’t it?

              TL;DR: absolute graduation rate is a very, very bad argument.

            2. @mattds I don’t see how the cost of paying for a year in GP2 is irrelevant, it would be very expensive. Just because Mercedes are paying for him to race in DTM doesn’t mean they would also fund a season in GP2. He is also listed as a reserve driver at Renault for this year’s F1 season, that means very little racing this season that way, so he’d have a year of disappointment if he travels with the team, and he’d be a year behind in terms of actual on track racing experience compared to his compatriots.
              I stand by my comment: Ocon is probably better off in DTM than in GP2.

            3. @drycrust GP2 is not “very expensive” for Mercedes. It would be a tiny fraction of their F1 budget, and it goes to the benfefit of Ocon by being able to measure himself in relevant machinery, against the top young drivers of the moment, on the same tracks as F1 and in front of his very own team. He would be able to spend much more time with the team on race weekends, learning directly from those that are doing the job he wants to do.

              You can stand by your comment but really, answer me, how can DTM possibly top any of that?

            4. @mattds In the terms of the Mercedes total motor racing budget, yes, you are correct, the cost of Ocon having a GP2 seat is a tiny part of that budget. However, you need to consider it against what they actually want to spend on Ocon racing in GP2, not against what they want to spend on F1. Mercedes accountants have decided it is better for them and Ocon if he races in DTM.
              Ocon has said he wants to race in DTM, and as far as I can tell they pay better, and he gets more racing experience, which is more than sitting on the reserve bench in F1, especially with a team that isn’t Mercedes.

            5. @drycrust don’t be so gullible – sure Ocon has said he wants to race in DTM, but I won’t believe that for a second. A single seater driver aspiring F1 wants to be in GP2 over DTM. The reason he said that is because he is saying what Merc want him to say, plain and simple.

              Now if we’re going to bring accountants into a discussion of which series it is better for a single seater driver to race in… well, that’s the point I’m dropping out. Sure, spending “less money” than “more money” is financially a logical decision. Doesn’t make it the best sporting decision though, and that’s a shame for a driver with Ocon’s talent. By the way, putting him in GP2 would give him more racing experience than in DTM.

              Just think of what we would have been robbed of had McLaren had the same logic and never put Vandoorne in GP2.

          2. I think the cost of a GP2 season is exactly why Mercedes (and Red Bull) hesitate to put their protégés in there. And DTM has the advantage it gives them a more thorough insight in the drivers @mattds

            1. @bascb well, RBR moved Lynn (before he left the programme on his account) and Gasly to GP2 after 2014, and Gasly is still in GP2. So it seems they are taking that cost.
              Anyway, I’m not buying the cost issue. Merc spends, what, €450M on their F1 programme? What’s the difference between GP2 and DTM budget – 500K? 750? At 0.15% of the annual F1 team budget, that’s a drop on a hot plate.

              As for “insight in the drivers” – how? They could follow him closely in GP2 as well. They can measure him up against a whole pack of the brightest up-and-coming single seater drivers.
              And even if it would learn them a bit more about Ocon, is that really more important than letting Ocon learn where he can learn the best and thus getting a better driver in return?

              And lastly, is

            2. Yes RB went with GP2 @mattds but only when the unfair advantage in licence points came to be.

              As for money, its different to pay someone else (gp2) then to pay your own team (DTM), regardless of the exact amounts.

              Stoffel being in Japan will certainly help him understand the Japanese and build a relationship. Just like they have with Button already

            3. @bascb for RBR there were maybe (probably?) more important considerations for placing them in FR3.5: firstly, that FR3.5 is/was a great top-level feeder that prepared their drivers well. It was never broken, so why fix it? Secondly, due the obvious link with Renault it made sense to support their engine partner by putting their youth there. Red Bull did a good bit of promotion on the WSR weekends as well.

              So I’m not sure at all budget had a lot to do with it.

              As for the budget… Well, yes, there’s a difference. Fine, just take the full sum then – 1.5M into GP2 is 0.3% of the F1 budget. Still a drop on a hot plate.

              And as for Vandoorne… I’m pretty sure we’re talking about Ocon here? :)

            4. Yeah, Ocon in this case, I mixed a bit of the Vandoorne to Superliga into it there.

              @mattds again, about the money.

              Regardless of how big the budget is, and how small the sum is in comparison to the total budget, it is still something that gets seperated out when one has to decide. And giving away money for a (too expensive) GP2 season where Mercedes will not learn that much more or have an extra reason to confirm your own DTM budget AND get all telemetry, meeting notes, etc on a driver. I certainly know which one I would want to defend to the Mercedes management!

            5. @bascb well, I do too.

              As I said to Steven above:
              being able to measure himself in relevant machinery, against the top young drivers of the moment, on the same tracks as F1 and in front of his very own team. He would be able to spend much more time with the team on race weekends, learning directly from those that are doing the job he wants to do.

              They would have all the telemetry from Ocon in DTM, but it’s still just DTM telemetry. DTM’s are not single seaters, therefore less relevant. I don’t understand how people can argue with the simple notion that the best preparation for the top single seater series in the world is the top feeder series for it.

    2. […] Crucially, he knows the Mercedes power unit which is new to the team this year. […]

      I would be extremely surprised if drivers with experience driving a certain engine, especially only during tests, have any valuable input to offer when it comes to the Manor enginers designing the car around and running that engine.

      1. @vvans And I’m not saying he will. But these are very complicated power units and there will be a clear benefit in having someone who is already clued up on their operation, especially when there are only eight days of pre-season testing. That’s less time Wehrlein has to spend mastering the basics and more time he can spend on other things.

      2. Yes he does @vvans

        It is fair to say that the mercedes power unit works at its best in the mercedes team, surely they are most closer to optimization compared to the customers.

        Things like driveability, mapping, etc have to be improved as the season progresses.

        If a driver has experience driving a car with a PU in its close to optimum efficienct he surely can help another team reach that state as well. Even if his input is limited to saying “guys, don’t know what you just did, but it getting further from what I used to have” or the other way around.

        1. Going the same way as Mercedes aint a guaranteed improvement if they cant do it all the way becouse of lack of resources. The way Mercedes relentlessly works to get the last 1% out of the engine probably would be only wasted time for Manor. Other than maybe being up to speed himself with the driving characteristics of the engine i dont see how he brings anything to the table.

    3. roadcar to formula ?? can he …?

      1. @gunusugeh Stranger things have happened (Hans Heyer, John Surtees, etc).

      2. Some say DTM are more like single seaters than actual touring cars.

    4. I’m really glad that we’re at a point in Manor’s life when everything seems bright ahead and the chances of actually doing something other than finishing last are returning to 2014 levels.

    5. I’m excited to see Manor back on a theoretical level ground with the rest of the grid I’d be happy to see the team poach a couple of points here and there.

    6. Pascal is an exceedingly creditable talent. In many ways what he has achieved in DTM in three years is much more impressive than Palmer’s four year road to GP2 honours, especially given that whilst GP2 is a conveyor-belt of heroes and zeros alike, DTM is top-to-toe with GT, prototype, touring car and single seater stars. Owing to the fact that only ten of the twenty-four regular drivers failed to score a pole position in 2015, I would have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that the DTM is the most competitive series in the world at the moment. However no amount of talent could have seen Manor score points in 2015.

      The synergy Manor can achieve with the Mercedes PU and the way in which the team chose to exploit the extensive and enviable talents of Pat Fry, Nikolas Tombazis and Dave Ryan are key to the team’s long-term future. Now that it is ten years since we saw a Minardi on the grid, F1 has made it quite plain that it has no time for perennial minnows, so extracting the potential from the opportunities Manor have been offered will be key to the team’s longevity. The ingredients are there – no it’s time to perform.

      1. only ten of the twenty-four regular drivers failed to score a pole position in 2015

        …of which champion Wehrlein was one.

      2. DTM is a joke. Team orders all over the place and artificial weights.

        1. @thetick doesn’t matter if the racing is good/unexpected, and massively close.

          1. It does matter. The weights which makes 2nd way more rewarding than 1st is a complete joke on a scale that makes DRS seem like the best idea ever. Unless you are Rosberg or Webber…

        2. @thetick It hasn’t stopped some of the best names from single seaters, GT racing and touring cars from signing up!

          1. @william-brierty Who doesn’t like a good joke ;)

    7. I think this is the most promising news from all the Manor developments we’ve had recently. Yes the technical deals and engineering signings will all make more of a performance impact than a driver, but taking on a driver who seems to be a talent for the future for probably a lower financial package than other drivers they could have taken is a very positive sign of intent.

      The cynic in me had suspected a lot of what we were seeing from them was window dressing for a potential future offloading of the team, but a quality driver was the last piece of the puzzle.

      But realistically I think points are a stretch. I’m expecting as much performance as they will gain from the power unit and gearbox/suspension, it will still leave them a good way off the pace of the next team down the road. It will take a superhuman effort like Bianchi at Monaco to snatch points.

    8. So if the Manor car suddenly improves from 2 – 4 laps down to points positions or even being on the same lap as those, will people finally admit that F1 is entirely about PU and that chassis and aero is now only a very small part of performance.

      If you can take an essentially poor chassis, strap a Mercedes PU to it and become competitive, it just proves that the balance has shifted too far in F1.

      1. Not really as the chassis is not the same as last year which was a huge compromise that was allowed to race with a few stick on bits. Last years chassis was the 2014 chassis with some modifications which other team agreed to let them race.

        If they get faster this year relative to the rest it will be a combination of a 2016 Merc engine v the dud that was the Ferrari 2014 engine plus an optimised 2016 chassis with lots of development time v a 2014 chassis that was not great being even more compromised to get it in under 2015 regs. Plus their driver line up so far seems a step up so no there are too many variables that have changed to say this is an example of engines being a disproportionate performance changer relevant to other areas of the car. In my opinion.

      2. If you belive the difference between a Mercedes and Ferrari engine is 2-4laps that would make the Ferrari Chassis 2-4laps faster than the Mercedes Chassis.

        1. it’s not just Ferrari vs Mercedes, it’s going from a 2014 chassis and 2014 Ferrari engine to a 2016 Mercedes engine with a new chassis and Williams parts. That’s a worth a major jump in time alone.

      3. @dbradock

        So if the Manor car suddenly improves from 2 – 4 laps down to points positions or even being on the same lap as those, will people finally admit that F1 is entirely about PU and that chassis and aero is now only a very small part of performance.

        I think we’ll know for sure once the season starts. I expect the Honda PU to be around 1.5 seconds slower than Mercedes per lap, and Renault PU probably 1 second off the pace. If we see the Manor giving Mclaren and Renault a hard time in certain races, then you will be correct to assume that the shift in focus from aero to PU has happened.

        If I were Mclaren, I would be very scared right now. There is a slim chance they could start the season in dead last.

    9. It has to be significant that the deal includes using Manor using Merc’s 50% scale windtunnel. Surely some Manor aero guys are going to end up having a coffee with some Merc aero guys. Or even more… dinner!! :) Ferrari/Haas is a model Mercedes were specifically interested in, and Manor have the same allocation of aero hours. Tombazis won’t need to have all the i’s dotted and T’s crossed will he? An engineer or two might move for a promotion.

      Merc actively want one of Manor’s drivers to do well. So I would not be surprised to find Manor’s chassis is quite passable, quite quickly.

      Points? Well say if Wehrlein is worth a few tenths over Nasr, Erikssen, Palmer and Gutierrez, the engine is worth a second or so over a few of the others, it only needs a good weekend to coincide with a few bad weekends. Just about odds on to score a point, I’d say. Twice, why not.

      1. @lockup I wouldn’t be surprised if you are right. The grid is expected to be as follows Merc; Ferrari; SFI and Williams; STR; RBR; then a tight bunch comprising McLaren, Manor, Haas, Sauber and Renault battling for 13th and 14th. Fast track and Manor is poised for 13th, RBR has reliability issues, or someone has some grid penalties, 11th, someone else has reliability issues or an accident and Manor is 10th, it makes sense.

    10. Remember Lotus last year? how everyone thought they would be fighting for podiums every race and fighting the Williams and Red Bulls?
      The engine is more important now than it has been for a number of years but it’s still just another piece of the puzzle. I think it will be Haas who will occasionally score one or two points and Manor will end a lap down almost always (instead of the two laps in 2015).

      1. Agreed. Manor could gain 3 seconds from the power unit alone and still end up off the pace of the next team which is likely to be Sauber.

      2. @mantresx I bet with you Manor is finishing where Lotus did on the constructors table in 2015.

    11. I’m remain skeptical. Personally I think the arguments presented for manor to score points aren’t very strong.

      – Wehrlein having experience with the PU will help him get up to speed, but won’t increase his speed.
      – Wehrlein might be consistent, but so was Chilton. He is yet to prove his ultimate speed.
      – Defeating Toro Rosso is unrealistic. TR although using an old PU will have decrease their power disadvantage compared to last year. Also they have a much bigger operation, and arguably much more talented and experienced drivers.
      – Even with a big power advantage, chances are slim for Manor to beat the works teams of Renault and Mclaren-Honda. And even if they do, they’ll not be in the top 10.
      – Reliability will be much better in the 3rd year of these PU’s. More cars will finish races, and less penalties will be applied. The likelihood of Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Mclaren finishing will improve dramatically.
      – With Haas entering F1, there will be an additional competitor. The Ferrari PU is expected match the Mercedes’ PU, and Haas is fully supported by Ferrari.
      – Recent signings of top-level engineers will not bear fruit immediately.

    12. Manor. Points this year?
      Nahhh…good try though its off season need to keep those articles coming heh?

      1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend It’s true but it’s a legitimate article, just remember your comment come the 2016 season review.

    13. Keith you didn’t need to write a “why something something is either true or false” kind of article the internet is so much in love with. I agreed with you, after 2 facts, Mercedes engine and a 2016 chassis.
      I hate you autosport.

    14. Keith as often, is spot on here.

      Good thoughts and could not agree more. They are doing correct steps, for sure they will improve. And being at GP2 speed basicly… It shouldnt be to hard to get within 2 seconds of leaders.

    15. No i don’t think they get points maybe in Monaco. It’s like Spyker when they got the Ferrari engine they were still in behind but got some speed to close in to the rear back then.

      So they will be closing to Sauber and (evil smile) McLaren Honda but beating then no i don’t think so.

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