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Pascal Wehrlein Q&A: Hungary temperatures should help Manor

21 Jul 2016

Big things were expected of Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein in his first F1 season, and thus far he has delivered, bringing Manor an invaluable point thanks to his recent top-ten finish in Austria. But what are the reigning DTM champion’s hopes for Hungary this weekend? What can he achieve over the rest of the year? And where will the German be in 2017? We sat down with Wehrlein for an exclusive chat in Budapest…

Q: Pascal, we’re halfway through the season. Is your current situation the one you had envisioned, or did you have a bigger splash in mind?

Pascal Wehrlein: Ha, first of all I have to say that we have reached our expectations and goals: we have scored one point and that makes us tenth in the constructors’ championship. We are in front of Sauber. We couldn’t expect more than that. So Austria was an absolute highlight. But, of course, things are not so easy for us - there is hardly a ‘big splash’ waiting around the corner. But when the opportunity has been there - like in Austria - we’ve been there too!

Q: That point in Austria could have a hugely positive impact on the team’s future. Does that make you ‘lord of the Manor’ right now?

PW: Oh yes, that point finish in Austria felt a bit like hitting the jackpot! (laughs) Two days later I went to the factory in Banbury and it was a super nice feeling. Everybody was all smiles. No wonder, as they work so hard. If we could stay in this position it means a lot more money - and more money means more development, and more development could mean a much better car. Wouldn’t that be great?

Q: One of your DTM colleagues, who also raced in Formula One, said that DTM is ‘kids’ stuff’ compared to F1. Is that why you are on such a tough learning curve?

PW: I wouldn’t call it kids’ stuff. It is different - and you cannot compare it to F1, of course. And yes, the learning curve is very steep. The car is different, the tyres are different, aside from four tracks all the tracks are new to me - so I am far away from showing my potential. In general every FP1 is only to learn the tracks while others are already working on the set-up.

Q: The Austrian result was no doubt helped by the fact that you had raced there before. The same goes for this weekend at the Hungaroring and next weekend at Hockenheim…

PW: Yes, it helps. But, of course, the car also has to be good on these tracks. In Austria it worked - let’s see what the situation is here.

Q: Most pundits expected you to steamroller your team mate Rio Haryanto. That has not happened so far. Why?

PW: Ha, it’s happened in the race, if you look at the race results. If you look at qualifying, that’s another story. There we are pretty even at the moment. Funnily enough people stare at qualifying. You don’t get points on a Saturday afternoon. And if you look at the race results it is 9:1 in my favour, or something like that. And what really matters is that we are in P10 and I have scored the point. Period.

Q: You have Mercedes’ backing and Toto Wolff is among your supporters. Many assumed he has big plans for you. Are you talking over your situation with him? Your future?

PW: Yes, we are always talking - but not yet about my future. I keep him updated. And frequently he asks what happened in a specific situation - and why did it happen. Why was Austria so good? Can you do it all the time? These kinds of things. Yes, he is very interested in what’s going on.

Q: We are seeing 2017 seats getting filled and teams not overly keen to make changes to their driver line-ups. What options do you see for yourself? Another season with Manor?

PW: I have no idea what will happen next year. I have a one-year contract with Manor, so I have to wait and see. But I am looking forward to the new [2017] cars. The cars are supposed to be faster - and that’s what drivers fancy. I can’t wait to see what the cars look like and how they feel.

Q: That sounds like you’re pretty confident you will still be in F1 in 2017…

PW: I think so. It’s my first year in F1 and races like Austria do speak for me. Yes, not everything goes perfectly in a rookie season, but Austria should speak for itself and the second half of the season should even come more to my advantage - if the car allows…

Q: In a week’s time we are in Hockenheim for your first home Grand Prix - and this track you really do know by heart…

PW: …yes, I do. And if there is one race where I want to be in the points, it is there. Unfortunately I have to say that the track is not the best for us, but maybe the German fans will propel me. I am looking forward so much to my first home race in F1.

Q: Hockenheim is probably the circuit you know best, but what about this weekend? You’ve race here at the Hungaroring before in DTM - and this track could suit Manor’s car more…

PW: …yes, that could be. The tyres are a huge problem for us - getting them to temperature -and the stable hot temperature here in Budapest could make a real difference. In Hockenheim you can sometimes experience significant changes in temperature between the sessions - and that is not good for us. On top of that, the tarmac here is new which puts more energy into the tyres. So yes, here we should have the better chances - or sailing on fan support will make a Hockenheim miracle! (laughs)