For only the second time ever, our sexy little team has left a Grand Prix weekend with points in the bag. Pascal Wehrlein, who started an incredible 12th, stopped for a second time in a lap before the development of a safety car which saw him dead last in the field, somehow managed to fight back to 11th on the final lap, before Sergio Perez’s crash allowed him to move into the final points paying position several corners from the finish line. Resulting in wild celebrations in the Manor Race Team garage and of course, sent MRTB HQ into rapturous ecstasy.
It was a great weekend all round. Not only did we get our first points and equal the team’s best ever qualifying position with a 12th on the Saturday but Rio Haryanto managed a season best 16th position. Rio can consider himself unlucky (yet again) as two separate accidents featuring Torro Rosso cars prevented him from setting a final qualifying lap which could have easily have seen both cars compete in Q.2. To top off an incredible weekend, Manor Race Team Development Driver Jordan King won the GP2 sprint race on Sunday morning.
We at MRTFB HQ have to hold our hands up. Although we rated Pascal very highly, we did last week suggest that his form thus far was not that of a driver who was destined to be driving for the top team in F1. We wrote the article shortly after Baku and hovered over the publish button for a few days trying to decide if we were being too harsh on him and we stand by some of the points we brought up. However, this weekend, he more than silenced us critics. We hope you can forgive us Pascal.
We also have to admit, Austria was not down on our list of potential places to score points. Our handy performance can be explained by the retarmaced surface which assisted in keeping tire temperatures low during the race. That is not going to work for us at the next few races but all we will say is we are very much looking forward to Spa in late (and hopefully damp) August.
Only time will tell just how important that point is. But as things stand one single point puts Manor 10th in the championship ahead of Sauber and maybe the difference between an estimated $40 million US dollars in prize money come the end of the year. To put it bluntly, it may be the difference between the team continuing to develop long term or potentially put the team out of business all together. Much like Jules Bianchi did in 2013, Pascal Wehrlein may have just saved the team with his wonder drive in Austria.
A small side note from the weekend. If what has been reported is to be believed, Rio Haryanto has now completed 9 out of the 11 races he has paid for upfront. With the next two races up and coming the team have a decision to make regarding his future. We are aware Abdulla Boulsien met with Indonesian officialS last month but we are not privy to how those talks went and it seems nothing has been decided for the second half of the season.
It is our opinion that Pascals points scoring position helps Haryanto. Without any points on the board and a lot at stake, the team may have opted to replace Rio with a lesser funded driver who could increase the team’s chances of scoring points. This is not as simple as it sounds as there are not an obvious list of candidates for that role and Rio has not only brought in much needed guaranteed funds to the team but kept Pascal on his toes the whole season.
With Sauber in financial trouble, it is unlikely they will develop their car to any great effect this season. As things stand only a high attritional race in Singapore and a freak weather race in either the States or Brazil stands in our way of finishing that all important 10th. Although we would still like to see Alexander Rossi in the car at some point in the season, we see no reason to switch drivers at present.