We’re now eight races into the 2016 Formula 1 season and one of the most interesting talking points of the season is taking place in the Manor Race Team garage in the form of the qualifying battle between Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto.
No matter what a driver tells you, beating your team-mate is everything. If you qualify 19th out of 20, as long as the guy behind you is your team-mate you will feel OK. F1 is not a level playing field and as long as you can comfortably beat your team mate you then have the right to say that if it was not for the machinery behind you that you would be further up the grid.
Let’s take Kevin Magnussen for example, already highly rated before this season, he can comfortable point to the lack of performance in the Renault car as the reason he is starting so far back on the grid as is beating his team mate 6-2. Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean and Valtteri Bottas also all have a 6-2 lead over their team mates. We fully understand that small problems can play a part, but qualifying is where you normally see who has the edge on pure speed when it comes to wringing a lap-time out of a car and is the best indicator of which team mate has the upper hand.
At Manor, the qualifying score is 4-4. Quite exciting and given the lack of race pace it is perhaps the most interesting part of the weekend for us now.
It was thought that Pascal would completely destroy Rio and Pascal would go onto bigger and better things whilst Rio would always be remembered as a journeyman pay-driver. We have it from the strongest source possible that Mercedes really thought before the season started that Pascal Wehrlein was a future World Champion. Rio Haryanto on the other hand required finances to get into F1 after a few solid if not spectacular years in GP2.
The race score paints a different picture and is currently 7-1 in Pascal’s favor with Rio suffering two DNF’s. This is more like it from Wehrlein but until he his comfortably beating Rio in qualifying and the races then he runs the risk of Rio scoring points in a freak race and finishing ahead of him in the table. A paid driver simply must beat a pay driver team mate, otherwise they are simply surplus to requirements. Heikki Kovalainen found this is out to his cost when it was the beaten in the championship by his pay driver team mate Vitaly Petrov who brought their Caterham home in a season best 11th in the Brazilain Grand Prix and secured 10th position in the championship for the team. Kovalinien was soon shown the door and the following seasons Caterham line up featured two funded drivers.
Should a driver with designs on a promotion to a race seat with Mercedes be getting out-qualified by Rio Haryanto as often as he is? No one is saying Pascal is not a better driver than Rio, but questions need to be asked. Rio Haryanto was never the slouch many, including so called experts wanted to paint him out to be.
If things remain the way they are for the rest of the season I wouldn’t bet against Rio with his funds and speed being promoted up the grid and not the German wonder kid.