Autosport (UK) - - PIT + PADDOCK/LETTERS -

ESTE­BAN OCON’S FEL­LOW MERCEDES JU­NIOR Pas­cal Wehrlein capped a nim pres­sive F1 de­but sea­son with Manor in 2016 byw in­ning the

Rooki eoft he Year pri zeatt he Autosport Awards. Sauber was sup­posed to be the next step on the road to a dri veatt he Mercedes works team. B utad if­fi­cul tcarw ith a year-old Fer­rari engine made life tricky for both the Ger­man and his team-mate Mar­cus Eric­s­son this sea­son.

Wehrlein scored all the team’s poin ts– with eight hins pain and 10t hina zer­bai­jan– but h efa iled to com­fort­ably out­per­form

Eric­sso nin the way it was hoped. His ‘su­per­time’ – his fastest lap from any ses­sion overa grand prix weeken dco nverted to a per­centag e,w ith 100% rep­re­sent­ing the out­right fastest – was just 0.013% bet­ter than the Swede’s.

Mean­while, his for­mer team-mate Ocon ex­celled at Force Indi a,a lthou ghh e had a stronger packag eu nderneath him.

Wehrlein says he’s happy wit hhis per­for­mance. “I scored all th epo ints for the team ,w hic hi st he most im­por­tan tt hing. Qual­i­fy­ing is good, I’m ahead of Mar­cus in the head-to-head. I’ mh appy wit hh owt he seaso nh as gone, es­pe­ciall yasimi ssed two races an da l otofw in­ter test­ing [be­cause of in­jury], so th ef irst few races back were a learn­ing process for me.”

But Sauber’s new part­ner­shi pw it hf er­rari/ Alfa Romeo has made life more chal­leng­ing for Wehrlein. Fer­rar ij uni ora nd For­mul a2c ham­pion Charles Le­clerc and Eric­s­son were con­firmed as 2018 Sauber driv­ers last week­end.

That could leave Wehrlein in the F1 wilder­ness. Wil­liams i sbe lieved to be in­ter­ested, but Wehrle ini s n otatt h etopoft he li stt here. If he misses out on ap lace, h ew ill likely head back tot he DT M,w it hhi s fu­ture inf 1 hang­ing in th eba lance.

Wehrlein could get left out in the cold

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