Usually our TOP DOG of the weekend award goes to one driver who has stood out among the pack; let’s forget the time we gave it to Fernando Alonso’s jumper.
On this occasion the Badger team felt it right to split the award so please step forward…
Jenson Button & Pascal Wehrlein
How great was it to see Jenson Button back in top form around the Red Bull Ring this weekend? Some sublime driving in a damp qualifying session not only saw him participate in Q3, but finish it an incredible fifth for McLaren Honda. Thanks to Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel’s grid penalties the plucky Brit would start from third on the grid.
Consider team-mate Fernando Alonso could only struggle to a disappointing 14th and it became clear just how special Button’s Q2 and Q3 laps really were. He immediately jumped Nico Hulkenberg off the start to slot in behind fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton.
Behind, Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari took nearly eight laps to find a way past the McLaren. Button was placing his car beautifully all over the track but eventually his tyres cried enough and he began to fall down the field.
A shrewd move to pit under the safety car period left Button with enough speed to challenge the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. Watching a McLaren race, then beat, a Mercedes powered car in a straight fight was great to witness.
In the end Button finished in sixth place to earn his fourth points finish of 2016 so far; the same number he earned during the entire 2015 season. The progress at the team now clear for all to see.
One wonders how timely Pascal Wehrlein’s performance this weekend will prove to be. The young German seized the day during the inclement qualifying to stick his Manor in a fantastic twelfth place. With dry weather forecast for the race no-one really expected Wehrlein to do much from his career best starting position.
How wrong we were. Instead Mercedes’ development driver put in the kind of drive once seen by a young Fernando Alonso in his Minardi days. Wehrlein hustled his Manor around the Red Bull Ring with confidence and pulled off some fantastic overtakes in a very tight midfield battle.
His race started off rather comically after he accidentally pulled up in the vacant grid slot left by Felipe Massa’s missing Williams.
Wehrlein showed enough nous to stick the car into reverse and park it in the correct grid position in the nick of time. The FIA were powerless to stop him given there is no rule about reserving on the starting grid – it is only banned in the pit-lane.
Some late race luck, with Sergio Perez crashing out on the final tour, allowed Wehrlein to move up to that all important tenth place. The result was one point for himself and an emotional first championship point for a great group of people since Jules Bianchi’s famous ninth place in Monaco two years ago.
After the Mercedes works team shenanigans at the end of the race, perhaps Wehrlein just bought himself the most sought after seat in the sport without spending a dime. Nice job Pascal!