Pascal Wehrlein is a reasonably tall chap.
Maybe not overly so in the grand scheme of the human race, but in the realm of racing drivers, he is quite tall.
Upon meeting, he would stand not too far shy of my 6’1” frame, whereas a great many racers fall somewhere in the 5’6”-5’8” region. And this was before his hair got ‘bigger’, as is now the case at Sauber.
Associates of Pascal told me at the time that he was a huge Lewis Hamilton fan and had adopted Lewis-esque diamond-ish stud earrings that the then-McLaren driver had debuted around that time. All apparently though, because getting Pascal to talk about this – or anything else for that matter was bloody difficult; something that became abundantly clear at a very hot Norisring in 2012.
For the most part, I was still mainly covering British F3 that year, but the future of the series was looking very bleak and indeed, the original British F3 would finally collapse in 2014 with a paltry five drivers participating. In an effort to broaden my potential and build relationships, it seemed best to take on a couple of rounds of the Euro Series (the predecessor to the European Championship), which partnered with British F3 for a few rounds during the 2012 season.
As noted, Norisring was hot. Very hot. Very bloody hot, but upon leaving my London flat at 3.30am to make way to the Stansted Airport, the late-June weather was rather cool and so it seemed appropriate to throw on a jumper and pair of heavy black jeans to get me through the first leg of the weekend. It probably would have been a good idea to check the weather forecast ahead of me, as by the time I had arrived at Nuremberg, it was be 39°C and insides were beginning to melt and smell like cheap cheese.
The heat is made somewhat worse as the Norisring and the old structures around it were seemingly built from several tonnes of smooth and shiny concrete, the kind that loves to absorb here on a warm day and fry those who stand upon it.
Having just climbed out of their cars following Friday practice, Formula 3 Fortec racers Pipo Derani and Félix Serrallés looked me up and looked me down, with Derani first to comment: “what the hell are you doing in those clothes, man?” The red-and black striped jumped having this stage clung to skin was not budging for anything… Serrallés, meanwhile, gave me a pitying look and sniggered a little.
That year’s Norisring round is best remembered for a pair of collisions that saw Daniel Juncadella collide first with Wehrlein and then later with Raffaele Marciello, dropping Wehrlein to 7th, while ultimately ending Marciello’s race. In the aftermath, Juncadella was disqualified from the race for his actions.
However as Juncadella was disqualified for breaching sporting regulations, the race director had the option to merely scratch the Spaniard from the result, but actually promote anyone else in his place – something that would have been required had a technical infringement been spotted. This meant that the having come home as runner-up, Will Buller became the highest-placed finisher, yet was not promoted to the winning spot despite Juncadella’s exclusion. And so, the race had no winner [note 1]
Rounding the far side of the makeshift media centre in the large indoor hockey court a short while later, I received an eyes-to-the-sky look from photographer Stella-Maria Thomas, before Wehrlein emerged from a temporary race control cabin. “Oh, this will be load of fun”, I thought to myself, but attempts to speak to him didn’t really get me anywhere. For a moment, one would bumble through a question or two, like an injured athlete limply trying to hop a hurdle, but it was impossible to shake. The major problem being, at this point in his life, Pascal could not really speak much English. At all.
And as I tripped through a query relating to an incident that happened during the race, I could only see Pascal’s brow stress, as his eyes widened into a large open glare and I know that in his head, he was probably thinking, “Ich habe keine verdammte Idee, wovon du redest…“
Pascal is still very young of course – already a DTM champion and now in his 2nd season in Formula One – and it hurts my brain that he is still only 22-years-old. Although I have not seen Pascal since last year since a brief meeting at a press conference last year, the young man does seem to be maturing a touch, although it has been said that he does carry something of an arrogant touch from time-to-time.
A racing driver? Arrogant occasionally..? Nawwwwww……..
The exclusion of a driver without promoting from below is not a new regulation by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact, goes back to the 1983 Brazilian Grand Prix. Following a botched pitstop, which included a fire, Williams’ Keke Rosberg finished 2nd in that year’s race at Rio, but was later excluded due to receiving a push-start in the pits – a decision that proved very controversial at the time.
While this rule large been forgotten, it still goes get dragged out on occasion by the DMSB (Germany’s moto racing governing body), but I have seen it used a few times at the Norisring, but nowhere else. A few years ago, DTM race winner Mathias Ekström was excluded when it was deemed his father had interfered with Ekström’s race suit in Parc Fermé by pouring water down his leg, while his son celebrated with mechanics.
A few years earlier, in a another Formula 3 round (this time the Euro Series), Stefano Coletti was excluded from the entire Norisring weekend after he punched race winner Jules Bianchi in the face, after Bianchi apparently insulted Coletti in the cool down area behind the podium.