May 9 (GMM) Pascal Wehrlein says he always knew his 2016 Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein was a good driver.
Indeed, amid reports labelling the Indonesian government-backed Haryanto as merely the next bankrolled ‘pay-driver’ in F1, fellow rookie Wehrlein insisted months ago that “Rio is being portrayed as worse than he is”.
Indeed, after four races head-to-head in 2016, the Mercedes-sponsored reigning DTM champion Wehrlein and 23-year-old Haryanto are 2:2 in qualifying.
“I already said from the beginning that Rio is not a bad driver,” Wehrlein, 21, is quoted by Speed Week at the DTM season opener last weekend.
“If he was fourth in GP2, and in my opinion not with a team that could win the championship, then he has something to do with that.
“Rio won three races last year, therefore beating Stoffel Vandoorne who in some races had a much better car,” Wehrlein added. “So you cannot do that and also be a bad driver.”
Wehrlein also said he has no hard feelings about Haryanto’s popularity, with the Indonesian attracting half a million followers on Twitter compared to his own 20,000.
“I think a new German driver is not so extreme but for the Indonesians his F1 career is a sensation,” said Wehrlein.
“I think it’s good and I hope it helps his fundraising campaign,” said the young German, referring to Haryanto’s efforts to raise backing for Manor through an unique SMS campaign.
“I really do mean that,” Wehrlein insisted. “I really hope that he can do the whole season to the end and doesn’t have to stop after the first half.”