…and Pas­cal Wehrlein an­swers them

The Sauber racer is of­ten some­what mis­un­der­stood. But this Q&A re­veals a young man who’s not as se­ri­ous as he first ap­pears – there’s much more to him than just a sharp hair­cut…

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS - : LORENZO BEL­LANCA

Does Pas­cal Wehrlein have an image prob­lem? We ask only be­cause a good many of the ques­tions that came in from our Global Fan Com­mu­nity this month were rather scathing. The im­pres­sion we gleaned was that some of you think that the 22-year-old Mercedes prodigy is guilty of tak­ing him­self a bit too se­ri­ously.

He can cer­tainly be quite in­tense, but, in our ex­pe­ri­ence, Pas­cal is as good hu­moured out­side the cock­pit as he’s fiercely com­pet­i­tive within it. Word reaches us, for in­stance, that he once pranked a former team-mate dur­ing a pho­to­shoot with some Blue­tooth head­phones by hi­jack­ing the con­nec­tion with an, ahem, adult movie sound­track. In­deed, as he bounds up the stairs now, to the cu­ri­ously empty top deck of the Sauber mo­torhome, he has a twin­kle in his eye and mis­chief on his mind…

As a long-time reader of this mag­a­zine, I fondly re­call the time the ed­i­tor told Ralf Schu­macher to “eff off”. Did you ever feel like do­ing the same thing? Ar­min Sta­hel, USA

No, I think you’re all re­ally nice. [He ex­am­ines the ques­tion again and re­alises he’s mis­read it] Wait! The ed­i­tor? To Ralf he said this?

F1 Rac­ing: It was a long time ago, but Ralf could be rather dif­fi­cult. If mem­ory serves, the ac­tual phrase was: “Off you fuck.” PW: Well, that’s dif­fer­ent! No, only jok­ing. In my first year in DTM Ralf helped me a lot. He’d just re­tired from rac­ing and was work­ing with Mercedes in a sup­port­ing role. Be­fore that, I’d just done a sea­son in For­mula 3 and two years in ADAC, so I didn’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence. He was help­ful to me and my team-mate, Daniel Jun­cadella.

What would you say is your favourite sport out­side of mo­tor­sport? Wil­liam Choi, UK

Foot­ball. I loved play­ing foot­ball: I played in a team un­til I was 18. My fo­cus is only on mo­tor­sport now be­cause I could get in­jured.

F1R: How good were you at foot­ball? I ask only be­cause Nico Hülken­berg loves play­ing ten­nis, but he ad­mits he’s not that good at it. PW: Ha ha! Nice – can you write that please? [He hoots with laugh­ter be­fore com­pos­ing him­self again.] I think I’m pretty good. Not good enough to be a pro­fes­sional, but I’ve scored a few goals…

Do you have con­cerns about be­ing treated dif­fer­ently to Marcus Eric­s­son now that team boss Mon­isha Kal­tenborn has left? Peter Di­a­mond, UK

So there are some se­ri­ous ques­tions here! Well, Peter, I hope not. I have heard many of those com­ments and ru­mours, and it’s not very nice to read things like this, so I re­ally hope it isn’t the case.

As a driver with the Manor team, how did it feel when the team were in trou­ble and your fu­ture was un­cer­tain? Cian Mcleod, Ire­land

Hon­estly, I never thought too much about my fu­ture, be­cause I’m in a lucky po­si­tion with Mercedes and have been since 2012. I didn’t know what I was do­ing un­til Fe­bru­ary this year, but there has al­ways been a plan B. Ob­vi­ously you want to know what you’re do­ing, whether it’s going to be For­mula 1 or some­thing else, and my tar­get is to re­main in F1 and win races one day. But the other peo­ple in the team had less cer­tainty even than that, which was very sad. It was not a good sit­u­a­tion at all.

Who cuts your hair? Robert Mcan­drew, USA

F1R: We ac­tu­ally had at least five ques­tions on this sub­ject, so your hair must have struck a chord with our readers! PW: [Un­able to stop laugh­ing.] It’s not the first time that I’m hear­ing this. In Ger­many some­one said my hair made me look like a crim­i­nal – what’s the word? Like a mugshot? Ac­tu­ally, a friend of mine cuts it for me.

This has been a chal­leng­ing sea­son. What do you feel you have learned from your ex­pe­ri­ence with Sauber? Jackie Hef­fer, UK

I’ve been learn­ing a lot – it’s only my sec­ond sea­son so there is still plenty to learn, even though I’ve done ev­ery­thing once. The first year was just a base­line. For me, Sauber are a step up from where I was be­fore, be­cause Manor were a very small team. Sauber have a wind­tun­nel and more re­sources, and maybe you can’t see it at the mo­ment in the re­sults – although I’ve scored more points al­ready than I did last year – but we’re head­ing in the right di­rec­tion. And like I said, I’m still learn­ing, getting faster and mak­ing fewer mis­takes.

What thoughts went through your mind when you ended up up­side down in the bar­rier at Monaco this year? Sam Ro­driguez, USA

My first thought was that I wanted to be the right way up again! I was try­ing to push against the bar­rier to turn it back over, but I couldn’t be­cause the car was stuck in the bar­rier. Then I was look­ing at the wheels, be­cause while the fuel tank in an F1 car is very strong, we’d done around 50 laps and the brakes were very hot. With­out the air cool­ing them they could catch fire. I saw some smoke, and I was think­ing, “Come on, mar­shals!” And then they were there.

Why do you think you were over­looked by Force In­dia for this sea­son, and has this changed the way you ap­proach your job? Anna Hunt, UK

[We feel a twinge of guilt at in­clud­ing this ques­tion be­cause Pas­cal now looks like a kicked puppy, and he ru­mi­nates for a long time be­fore an­swer­ing] Ah, Anna, please ask Force In­dia this. Has it changed my ap­proach? My ap­proach has al­ways been to ex­tract the max­i­mum from what I have, and to do the best job I can. In our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion we aren’t likely to fin­ish in the points ev­ery race, but if I fin­ish a race and we haven’t got a re­sult be­cause of some­thing that I’ve done wrong, if I’ve made mis­takes or not been fast enough, then I’m not happy. That’s how I get the max­i­mum out of my­self and that will never change. You have to be am­bi­tious, and only be happy if ev­ery­thing is per­fect.

SAUBER ARE A STEP UP FROM WHERE I WAS, BE­CAUSE MANOR WERE A VERY SMALL TEAM MAYBE YOU CAN’T SEE IT IN THE RE­SULTS BUT WE’RE HEAD­ING IN THE RIGHT DI­REC­TION

F1R: You’re start­ing to sound like Ron Den­nis… PW: No! I mean, I’m a happy guy gen­er­ally. But you have to re­ally fo­cus in For­mula 1. Maybe some­times I’m not smil­ing enough, but that’s just be­cause I’m fo­cus­ing on the job. It’s like be­ing two peo­ple in a way. F1R: It’s a good thing we got the happy one to­day! PW: Ha ha! But if we were mak­ing this interview just be­fore qual­i­fy­ing, maybe it would be dif­fer­ent…

What’s the most ex­cit­ing race you’ve ever driven in? Peter Dal­ton, Aus­tralia

Oh, it was def­i­nitely For­mula 3 in Ma­cau. I loved that cir­cuit and the at­mos­phere there. That was a crazy week­end – not just my race, but the whole event. It was un­be­liev­able to see mo­tor­bikes rac­ing around there.

Who do you see as your big­gest rival? Steve Wrench, UK

This is a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion. How can I com­pare my­self with some­one who isn’t driv­ing for the same team, in the same car? Cer­tainly the one guy you al­ways have to beat is your team-mate, be­cause that’s what’s ex­pected of you, but I get along with Marcus quite well. So I see him as a com­peti­tor rather than a rival.

Would you ever choose to fly the Mau­ri­tius flag in your F1 ca­reer? Kieran Vince-clark, UK

Yes and no. I’m Ger­man, I was born and grew up in Ger­many, so that’s my home coun­try. But then, of course, I have a sec­ond side be­cause my mother is from Mau­ri­tius, and I’m re­ally proud of that. So I do have the flag of Mau­ri­tius on my hel­met. Ev­ery­one knows about my sec­ond side – maybe be­cause I don’t look like a typ­i­cal Ger­man.

Be­ing a cham­pion al­ready in the DTM, do you think you could beat Lewis Hamil­ton if Mercedes put you in a seat be­side him? An­dres Pri­eto, Colom­bia

Ah, we have so many good ques­tions, so let’s… [he pre­tends to put the ques­tion card straight into the ‘used’ pile] That’s a re­ally dif­fi­cult one to an­swer. Well, as I said be­fore, you al­ways want to beat your own team-mate, so if we were on the same team… but to beat Lewis is not easy. If I were his team-mate then I would try as hard as I could.

MAYBE SOME­TIMES I’M NOT SMIL­ING ENOUGH, BUT THAT’S JUST BE­CAUSE I’M FO­CUS­ING ON THE JOB

What do you think about Robert Ku­bica’s re­cent F1 tests and his pos­si­ble re­turn? Pawel Rozwad­owski, Poland

I kind of feel… well, the in­jury that I had [Wehrlein crashed at the Race of Cham­pi­ons in Jan­uary, broke three ver­te­brae and missed the first two races of 2017] was nowhere close to the one he had. But I know how hard it is to have an in­jury and fight back, and the ef­fort he’s put in over the past few years must have been mas­sive.

When you’re re­cov­er­ing, it’s never hap­pen­ing fast enough. Time is your big­gest en­emy. Ev­ery morn­ing you wake up and you hope. ‘Is it going to be bet­ter to­day? Can I move more? Is the pain less?’ And you do that ev­ery day. Some­times it isn’t bet­ter, it’s worse.

For me it was just ten weeks of that. For him it has been six years. So I re­ally hope, af­ter ev­ery­thing he’s been through, that he can come back to For­mula 1.

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