In what can best described as a ‘under the radar’ type of weekend for Manor, some good news did arrive in the form of confirmation that the Manor Race Team and Mercedes F1 partnership will continue in 2017 and most likely beyond. It was revealed that Mercedes has written to the FIA to confirm that they intend to remain the teams engine supplier for 2017. The Anglo-German team will also continue to supply Williams and Force India.
The continued relationship is now becoming an increasingly mutual beneficial affair. Mercedes are providing Manor with best engine in F1, technical partnership and at present, their most promising young driver. Manors relationship with Mercedes will be key to them not only finishing in that all important 10th this year, but to move further up the grid in the medium to long term.
From a Mercedes point of view, Manor provide them further data on their engine performance and the team have become an important ally in the ever complicated world of F1 politics. At present, Red Bull and Ferrari already effectively control the way at least one other team votes. Mercedes also require a ‘B-Team’ to ensure that they are not out muscled at the voting table.
The importance of having a team to slot one of their up and coming stars also became evidently clear over the weekend. Not only was there yet another stunning justification of the Red Bull young driver proggrame but after yet another race incident between the two Mercedes drivers over the weekend, this time taking them both clean out, the team need to start preparing for the departure of one of them sooner rather than later.
Mercedes placed Pascal Wehrlein with Manor at the cost of several million dollars to remind both drivers that they have a young and upcoming driver with F1 experience to step in if their feud began to hurt the team. We have it on very good authority that Mercedes not only rate Wehrlein very highly, but believe he is future World Champion material. F1 guru Joe Saward has already suggested that Wehrlein has a drive lined up in 2017. We can only presume that the Mercedes plan was for him to spend a year cutting his teeth at Manor and then moving up the grid to one of Force India or Williams to be truly evaluated for a race seat at the world champions. We highly suspect that this weekend’s incident may very well fast track Wehrlein’s route to Mercedes.
Wehrlein has already caught the eye in his five races with the team, most notably with an excellent debut in Melbourne and a impressive qualifying performance in Bahrain. His first lap performance is also currently the best on the grid in terms of making up places. However, there is yet to be any moments of greatness where he has elevated the car beyond it’s natural position in the pack.
He is only beating Rio Haryanto 3-2 in the qualifying stakes and given the reputations of the two drivers before the start of the season it is not unreasonable to have expected that score to be 5-0 at this point of the season. Haryanto has surprised a few people (not us, obviously!) by making a solid start to his F1 career. To be considered a potential world champion Pascal needs to put some points on the board and put a comfortable distance between himself and Rio in the qualifying stakes between now and the end of the season.
The next two races by our reckoning represent the team’s best chance of scoring points this season. Anything can happen in Monaco, as we saw in 2013 and the Canadian Grand Prix typically has a high level of attrition and the circuit will suit the MRT05’s strengths. What great timing it would be for Pascal Wehrlein to give Mercedes a nice little reminder of his talents and deliver those much, much needed points for Manor. It certainly would provide some food for thought at Brackley. As Max Verstappen showed at the weekend, if you are good enough, age and experience matter very little.