Pascal Wehrlein missed the first two races of 2017 due to his Race of Champions crash at the start of the year but put in a gutsy performance in Bahrain to silence those who had criticised him
— Pascal Wehrlein (@PWehrlein) April 17, 2017
Wehrlein had taken a lot of flak for missing the first two rounds of the 2017 season, and it was only in Bahrain that we finally knew the extent of his injuries. The ROC crash in Miami had left him immobile for 5 weeks, and as such his preparations for 2017 took a big hit. But missing the Chinese Grand Prix as Antonio Giovinazzi stood in for him really allowed the young German to catch up. He and Sauber announced he would be racing in Bahrain and he produced arguably one of the best performances of his short F1 career so far.
“You can see what a big change these two weeks of training have been to me and I’m just really happy overall. This race was great in terms of performance and I’m really happy to come back like this, it’s like I’ve never been away.”
– Pascal Wehrlein
Free Practice went well for him, qualifying went even better. Whilst teammate Marcus Ericsson only qualified 19th, Wehrlein put his C36 into the second round of qualifying and in the end he put the car in 13th place for the race on Sunday. It was a remarkable effort, and one can only speculate as to where the car might have been had it got the latest Ferrari power unit in the back. Let us not forget, that car is running the 2016 power unit from Maranello. Things got even better in the race as well.
“Mentally, it was a great weekend, I know what I can do and I know I can be quick but the last three weeks were really difficult for me. I heard some crazy comments from other people about myself, what I should do or what they would do in my situation even though they don’t know what my situation was. The best answer is to show the performance on track and to come back like this. I came back like I never had a break.”
– Pascal Wehrlein
After a scrappy start left him near the back of the pack, Wehrlein eventually finished Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix in 11th place, a strong performance and a great way to return to the paddock. It impressed many and really silenced the critics who questioned his drive and commitment, as he showed he really lacked none of those things and that his return to the grid wasn’t too soon, but at the perfect time. Mentally, it also left him in a great place. Proving the doubters wrong was a great way to get back into the cockpit, and surely there is more to come from Wehrlein as the year goes on. If so, Esteban Ocon may have more competition than he bargained for in Mercedes young driver program.