Following Rosberg’s shock retirement, then Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein was one of the drivers shortlisted for the vacancy at the Championship winning team. At the time, his inexperience in Formula One was given as the main reason to snatch up Valtteri Bottas instead.
The German driver explained that Toto Wolff made it clear to him why he wasn’t selected for the seat. Wehrlein said:
“He said, ‘We think it would be good for you to have more experience, one year was not enough and especially in the second year, drivers are always making big progress.’
“I think Mercedes wants to have a ready driver and a perfect driver, who is at his limit. At the moment I am not on my limit where I could be, because of the experience and that is quite clear.”
– Pascal Wehrlein
Instead, Wehrlein and his 2016 teammate Estaban Ocon survived the collapse of Manor Racing and have another chance to prove their worth. Wehrlein is racing for Sauber this season, the Swiss team looking to rekindle the pace of years gone by to make their 25-year anniversary in the sport a memorable one.
Sauber quietly went about their business in pre-season testing. There weren’t any headline-grabbing fast laps, but the team certainly did their homework on the impressive looking C36. They managed to clock the fourth largest tally of laps over the two weeks of testing, with only Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams completing more.
Meanwhile, the man who got the vacancy at Mercedes continues to impress. Valtteri Bottas’ best time in testing was a 1.19.310 on the supersoft compound. The Finn was four-hundredths of a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton, who completed his best time on the stickier ultrasofts. Only the Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were quicker.
A point of interest for the Australian Grand Prix next weekend will be how Valtteri Bottas manages the Mercedes W08 under the scrutiny of very high expectations. Wehrlein and his Sauber won’t bother the Finn, but the Swiss team are aiming for a strong midfield status this year, and will need to score points early in the season as teams around them develop their PU’s as the season progresses.