2016 F1 season driver rankings #17: Wehrlein

2016 F1 season review

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Pascal Wehrlein showed a good deal of promise in 2016 as Mercedes finally liberated the DTM champion from the world of tin-tops.

Pascal Wehrlein

Beat team mate in qualifying13/19
Beat team mate in race11/14
Races finished16/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate675/954

His rapid starts caught the eye early in the season. He made it up to 14th on lap one in Melbourne and gained ten places at the start in China. On the latter occasion he’d started at the back after an embarrassing crash in qualifying on a damp straight.

However by the end of the year he’d taken the Manor into Q2 on five occasions and – more importantly – bagged a point, too. This came at the Red Bull Ring, one of the few tracks he knew already from his DTM days, and one where the Manor’s shortage of downforce wasn’t too great a problem. Twelfth on the grid and tenth at the flag were his best results of the year.

Just as impressive was his gutsy approach in Monaco, where he was the only other driver to copy Lewis Hamilton by jumping straight from full wets to slick tyres, again in spite of the Manor’s aerodynamic shortcomings. This boldness caught him out at Silverstone, however, where he spun out soon after getting rid of his wet weather tyres.

In the Brazil downpour he was rather more circumspect than new team mate Esteban Ocon, who showed him the way home. Being partnered by Rio Haryanto in the opening half of the season clearly flattered Wehrlein to an extent and once his new team mate arrived life became less comfortable. The growing tension was evident when the Wehrlein and Ocon collided at the final race.

Even so Wehrlein gave a good account of himself in 2016 and deserves a return. Given recent events, missing out on the Force India seat to Ocon may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.

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Over to you

The best backmarker driver of the season. He managed to get into Q2 many times this season in a car which I think is the worst on the grid. He also scored a point in it which almost leapfrogged Sauber.

What’s your verdict on Pascal Wehrlein’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:

View race-by-race notes on Pascal Wehrlein

Australia – A superb start for Wehrlein saw him leap from 21st on the grid to 14th, but what was arguably even more remarkable was that he held the position until he pitted. Unfortunately this was several laps before the Safety Car came out and as he’d switched to soft tyres he was left at a disadvantage. He reached the chequered flag but finished last.

Bahrain – Starred in qualifying by placing his Manor an excellent 16th on the grid. He improved on that in the race, taking advantage of the opportunity to race against and pass the Force Indias, and professed himself happier with Manor’s tyre degradation.

China – Had an embarrassing crash in qualifying when his car snapped out of control on a damp bump on the pit straight. “I guess I was just unlucky as there was nothing I could do,” he said. But he made another great start, gaining six places, and staying out during the Safety Car briefly put him fourth. He was only ever going to slip back from there, however, and despite sticking to the softer compounds he was 18th at the flag.

Russia – Lost some time having his floor replaced on Friday, and had a quick spin on the slippery track as well, which was by no means unusual for any of the drivers. Pipped Haryanto in qualifying, but after a feisty scrap with Nasr in the race his tyres went off and a second pit stop meant a wasted race.

Spain – The Manor’s lack of downforce was revealed by its clear position at the top of the speed trap. Wehrlein felt the team could qualify no higher than the back row and he was proved correct. Despite tyre degradation worries he made a two-stop strategy work but lagged behind the midfield.

Monaco – The only driver besides Hamilton to avoid running on intermediates, Wehrlein played himself into a potentially strong position. He was partly undone by Bottas passing him illegally off the track and holding him up which allowed Verstappen by. However more of the damage was self-inflicted, with ten-second penalties for speeding during a Virtual Safety Car period and failing to obey blue flags.

Canada – Both Manor drivers had some familiarisation to do in their first event at Montreal. But Wehrlein looked least in need of it, particularly after a brilliant first run in Q1 which put him in contention for a Q2 place, which he eventually missed by just 0.15s. He held onto his place at the start but floor damage compromised his car’s performance and he lost a place to Ericsson. However he beat the delayed Nasr to the flag.

Europe – Wasn’t able to use DRS on his last qualifying effort and started 18th. He tried to make a one-stop strategy work and ran as high as eighth at one point before slipping back. Manor left his first pit stop until after half-distance so he actually regained some places from drivers who were making their second stops before coming in himself. For all that he was down in 19th when his brakes gave up.

Austria – Clearly revelling in a track he knows well and enjoying the benefit of Mercedes power, Wehrlein took Manor to the rare heights of 12th in qualifying. He accidentally lined up tenth on the grid but had the presence of mind to reverse his car into the correct slot. He steered clear of the super-softs in the race, running two stints on ultra-softs then going to the end of softs. This paid off handsomely, and Perez’s late retirement promoted him to tenth for a point.

Britain – Driving at Silverstone for the first time, Wehrlein was pipped by Haryanto by a few hundredths in qualifying. Switching to intermediates at the first available opportunity in a chassis not renowned for its downforce levels proved a gamble too far – he spun out when he reached Abbey for the first time.

Hungary – The final red flag in Q1 came out eight-tenths of a second before he crossed the finishing lap. His lap time would have been good enough for eighth place, but as it couldn’t be counted he was eliminated. In the race he briefly ran as high as 16th before the inevitable tyre degradation caught up with him, though he still finished in front of one Sauber.

Germany – As was the case at the Red Bull Ring, Wehrlein put his track knowledge from the DTM to good use and briefly looked like snatching a place in Q2. However he was shuffled back two places at the start which left him fighting Ericsson. He finished ahead of the Sauber as well as Palmer, but the other Renault was much further ahead.

Belgium – Took his Manor into Q2 again but without any fresh super-soft tyres he could only manage 16th. He made a decent start but showed a lack of awareness by running into the back of Button and was fortunate not to get a penalty.

Italy – Reached Q3 for the third time this year and split the McLarens on the grid, though Q3 proved too far for Manor to reach. He almost got by Verstappen at the start, but lost a place to Grosjean on lap two. He changed to mediums on lap 16 which would have been a big ask for a one-stop strategy, but his car failed at half-distance rendering the question moot.

Singapore – “This is a track where you need a lot of downforce and good traction. We don’t have enough of either,” said Wehrlein after qualifying 20th. Nonetheless in the race he managed a 24-lap stint on ultra-softs at the end to keep Ericsson behind and finished far ahead of Ocon.

Japan – Experienced Suzuka for the first time on Friday and said he felt happier with his car’s balance. However gearbox problems compromised his qualifying preparation and Ocon was quicker than him again. His race pace was generally good but he lost more time with blue flags and in the pits and finished almost 20 seconds behind his team mate.

Malaysia – An electrical problem in final practice compromised his preparation for qualifying. His race was fairly straightforward as he wasn’t really in contention with the other cars, but his best lap was almost two seconds quicker than Ocon’s.

United States – Took a scolding from the team after spinning off in final practice and hesitating to switch his engine off, hoping the marshals would recover him. He made amends in qualifying, besting Ocon by a quarter of a second. He raced well too and was putting the wounded Bottas under pressure at the end.

Mexico – Said his Friday preparation was the best he’d had “since quite a long time” and he made good on that on Saturday, grabbing a spot in Q2. Unfortunately he went out in a first-lap racing incident.

Brazil – After a difficult Friday he was rejuvenated on Saturday and out-qualified Ocon, albeit by the tiny margin of five thousandths of a second. Given Manor’s lack of downforce it was no surprise neither driver wanted to try the intermediates, and by the stoppage both had risen into the top ten. Wehrlein slipped back more quickly, however, and a gap of almost 15 seconds had opened out between the pair by the end of the race.

Abu Dhabi – Admitted Yas Marina had “too many corners” for the Manor and found his set-up tweaks after first practice did not work as hoped in the second session. He was upbeat about the track, however, and snagged a place in Q2 at the expense of the Toro Rossos. But he made a sluggish start and tangled with Magnussen, dropping to the tail of the field. A slow pit stop compounded his problems but he still managed to finish in front of the Saubers.

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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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39 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #17: Wehrlein”

  1. I would have placed him even further up, to be honest. I know it is tought to do this, but the drivers ranking should be as disconnected to the actual strength of the cars as possible. And there, Pascal is probably one of the best 10 drivers in F1, or at least Top 12. Constantly doing more with the material than could be expected, in many different occasions. In terms of potential, he is surely Top 10 and in my view even a possible future WTC. The way he won the DTM was just nothing short of impressive.

    1. magon4 (@magon4)
      7th December 2016, 14:07 I agree with most of you opinon’s regarding Werlein but I do think that he needs some more time before a definitive accurate rating can be passed on him. At this stage given the equipment at his disposal and all things considered, I think the Massa should be rated higher. Werlein’s Youngest ever championship in DTM was very impressive wet or dry so I think that he has major potential . If he would just learn to switch off the car when told by his race engineer.

      1. @magon4 me too, I would have ranked him in the top 10 at least, we must not forget that he came from DTM so he had to remember what a single seater looks like in contrast with other drivers, yet he managed to outclass what his car was capable of and only two drivers have been able to score a point in Manor’s cars which can tell a lot about him, at least I can rank him higher than Ericsson or Massa.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      7th December 2016, 14:46

      Not top 10 for me but I can’t understand how he’d be behind Palmer, Magnussen, Button or Ericsson….

      1. @petebaldwin
        Agreed there, pretty surprised I haven’t seen Palmer or Ericsson’s names already.

        Although I think this might have been better than the Manors Bianchi had at his disposal, relative to the competition, getting into Q2 so often was pretty impressive. I will admit it’s hard to judge race performances at the back of the pack due to lack of coverage though.

    3. Most people put him around 12th-16th, and then one 6th, one 7th, one 9th and a 10th from myself in the forum where we were asked to rank them ourselves. I don’t necessarily agree with your point that he’s one of the top 10 drivers in F1 (at least not yet) but he should definitely be higher, probably between 10th and 13th imo.

    4. @magon4 @abdelilah Keith doesn’t use experience or age in his rankings, which is the fair way, and the reason that Wehrlein is low. He has done a good job for a rookie but it’s crazy to place him in the top ten considering he didn’t comprehensively beat Haryanto in qualifying.

      1. @magon4 @lolzerbob Iquite agree with that. He is certainly a top rookie and a top backmarker but it remains to be seen what he can do in a good car with all the pressure. I’d have ranked him above the Renaults however.

  2. I think that Massa and Werelein are the wrong way around in your rankings

    1. RossoTorro (@)
      7th December 2016, 14:53

      I can’t seem to find a link to the articles for numbers 18.1 Palmer, 18.2 Magnussen and 18.3 Eriksson, this is one strage ranking.

  3. I don’t know why Wehrlein is so underrated. He has achieved something probably more telling of a great driver than either of Ocon’s title. His DTM title, which admittedly was a three-year project (the first year of which saw him languishing in last in the standings – but he was only seventeen), saw him pitted against drivers like Jamie Green, Edoardo Mortara and Marco Wittmann, drivers who not only would have been deserving of an F1 chance, but likely would have been very competitive had they got it.

    In his title year, going into the season he was Mercedes’ anointed title challenger; a lot of pressure for a young driver with the hopes of a manufacturer’s title bid at his back, especially when his opposition is almost unquestionably the finest congregation of driving talent outside of F1 (albeit Porsche’s newly announced #1 LMP1 squad of Lotterer, Tandy and Jani is similarly awe-inspiring). All the more absurd that Mercedes had to go and plead for a superlicense not afforded by winning the DTM title…

    I don’t remotely think he is better than Ocon though; Esteban’s junior stats have a whiff of greatness about them, as do moves like the ones he pulled on Antonio Fuoco and Jann Mardenborough at Sochi last year (seriously, look them up). So I was surprised this year when Mercedes initially looked to be giving Wehrlein precedence over Ocon by giving him the Manor seat and awarding a DTM stop-gap to Esteban.

    1. *so underrated generally, for these rankings it’s about right – although why Ericsson and Palmer are ahead of him I haven’t the foggiest…

      1. Ericsson hasn’t been bad at all this year. I can easily understand why he would be rated above Wherlein. This isn’t the main reason but I think Ericsson was more deserving of a points finish in Mexico than Wherlien was in Austria. Ericsson had a whole load of bad luck and no faster cars retired ahead of him but yet he still finished 11th. He got damaged on the first lap which wasn’t his fault, fell right to the back then pitted to get a new front wing and did 69 laps on 1 set of tyres with a damaged car and finished 11th. Easily more impressive than any of Wherlein’s races if you ask me. While Wherlein did do well in qualifying in Austria, he made an error at the start of the race by starting on the wrong grid slot. He then reversed on the grid seconds before the lights went out. I was pretty surprised he got away with that. And then pretty much the only reason why he had a points finish was because of faster cars ahead of him retiring. It was a very good race but it was pretty lucky that he got into the points.

        Even if I include every race this season, I think that overall, Ericsson has bee performing better than Wherlein, but not by much.

        Palmer did improve towards the end of the season but I would certainly rate him below Wherlein.

        1. It was Ericsson’s third season in F1, I really don’t see how his mediocre effort puts him above Wehrlein, Ocon, or even Kvyat – plus he wasn’t there when it counted to take some points.

          Putting the in the wrong grid slot is clearly a rookie mistake from Wehrlein.

          But Palmer drove into the back of another car in the last to races, how is that the improvement towards the end of the season people are talking about?
          He’s ended the year with a single point, as many as Wehrlein, but in a clearly better car.
          He’s the disappointment of the season and should be second to last in front of only Haryanto.

          1. @jon-thereyougo
            The fact it is Ericsson’s 3rd season in f1 is nothing to do with how good he has been this season. Basing his performance on this season alone, I could rate him above Wherlein. I also do think his performance has improved a lot since his first couple of years. He still does make mistakes but if I compare his season to Wherlein’s wherlein has also made quite a few mistakes. The one that I mentioned, then he’s had at leased 2 contacts with his team mates. Ocon (maybe one was Haryanto) but they both looked rather clumsy and I’d say both drivers were equally to blame. He also had made a mistake in qualifying one time when he went full speed on a damp patch and he spun off and crashed. He should have realized that would happen there. Ericsson may be more experienced but just because is is Wherlein’s first season in f1 shouldn’t mean that he gets away with rookie mistakes. Ericsson has also made plenty of mistakes but in my view he’s had more impressive races and that one in Mexico look more impressive than any drives by Wherlein.

            I do disagree about Palmer. He should be rated below Wherlien. He wasn’t impressive and he cost him self some points on at least 2 occasions I think. He got better towards the end of the season but still kept making mistakes.

            I think that Grosjean should be rated lower than he is going to be. Either that or Gutierrez a bit higher as even though the points difference is huge, Grosjean has hardly done better this season that Gutierrez.

    2. @william-brierty DTM is a very high standard series with a quality field of experienced drivers.

      However, it is tainted by the overwhelming use of team orders, particularly in the last few years.

      Mercedes got behind Pascal in 2015 and orchestrated a number of races to ensure that he was the highest placed Mercedes.

      And that, sadly, devalues his title in 2015 title, over say a GP2 where all of the competitors are out there driving for themselves.

      1. @tdog – It might devalue the viewing spectacle but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to generate enough championship momentum versus a stable of highly competitive teammates to warrant a supported title charge.

        1. How many DTM champions go on to F1? It aint exactly an merit.

  4. Rumor has it he is difficult to work with. He could just end up to be another Paul Di Resta. Selfish Diva.

    1. magon4 (@magon4)
      7th December 2016, 14:07 I agree with most of you opinon’s regarding Werlein but I do think that he needs some more time before a definitive accurate rating can be passed on him. At this stage given the equipment at his disposal and all things considered, I think the Massa should be rated higher. Werlein’s Youngest ever championship in DTM was very impressive wet or dry so I think that he has major potential . If he would just learn to switch off the car when told by his race engineer.

    2. didnt know that about Paul.

      1. I actually quit like Di Resta but yes I remember that, he was courting a McLaren drive a few years back, and frequently said uncomplimentary remarks regarding his then team & car (Findia).

        Fell out of favour quickly.

  5. It’s funny how we all see different things! Really enjoy the variety in the choices and I certainly wouldn’t argue too much with the placing of Wehrlein… but I would argue that he definitely shouldn’t be below the likes of Palmer or Ericsson…

    1. I’d agree with you Ben, I’d prob stick Wehrlein just behind K Mag.

    2. Yeah, I think he certainly outdid palmer, who only started to get himself going a bit by mid season.

  6. Lower than Ericsson, Magnussen, Palmer, Button? You’re a man with balls Keith, got to give you that.

  7. Both Renault’s above both Manor’s? Interesting

  8. We have to think about where the drivers come from. Pascal came in on a high. Compare that to Ericsson that the most people have given nothing more than shit. I think (and i know i´m Swedish …) that Ericsson put in a performance this year that is stronger than Pascals. But off course Pascal is extremly talanted. No doubt there. But that is not what this is about. For me Ericssons performance is better than for example Buttons, Palmers and Magnussons to.

  9. Should be higher.

  10. 17th?? I think that’s his car being used against his actual performances

  11. A bit lower than I would have placed him but still reasonable. Would have placed him ahead of the Renault’s but that’s about it really.

  12. I rate Wehrlein higher than Verstappen.
    Verstappen has had a lot of luck and Werlein has a slow car.

    1. @ Catweaz Did you see any F1 race this year??

  13. This is a scorching hot take from Keith.

  14. At least Wehrlein won the Autosport Rookie Of The Year Award while Palmer mainly succeeded in being completely invisible.

  15. Keith, could you perhaps do an article explaining why age and experience (and car) don’t factor into your rankings?

  16. I don’t agree with this rank for Wehrlein, it seems unjust. Wehrlein has been more consistent in getting out of Q3 than his teammate. He scored points for Manor, which when achieved by Bianchi was hailed as one of the greatest drives of the year. He has out performed Palmer by light years. Autosport also recognise Wehrlein’s achievements. I just can’t understand this ranking at all. Forgetting about other drivers in and around the lower teens, Palmer in my eyes is the epitome of what is wrong with F1, name + money + no talent = drive. Wehrlein doesn’t have the name, but he has carved one out for himself off the back of his talent, and his position in Manor is well justified, and for Palmer to be higher than this talented driver is a travesty.

    I’m just downright saddened by this rank.

  17. I’m OK with this ranking as long as both Renault drivers are adjacent (I see Palmer already is). For different reasons, it’s been especially hard to separate the drivers from their cars (the Renault was all over the place and the Manor was usually the slowest car), they’ve had particularly awkward team-mate comparisons (Manor because of the mid-season driver swap, Renault because there was a rookie and someone unrecognisable from their McLaren days) and there have been few clues as to how they’ve performed compared to drivers in other teams.

    At the halfway point, I’d have put Wehrlien in the top 10. However, Ocon, word about how Pascal works and mistakes creeping in (rather than out, as would be expected for a rookie) make such heights hard to justify now. Which is a great shame for someone who, indeed, produced two of the drives of the season in Monaco and Austria.

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