Wehrlein not to blame for pit penalty, says Sauber

Sauber says a late call to pit Pascal Wehrlein under the Formula 1 virtual safety car in the Spanish GP created the circumstances for the German to get penalised.

Wehrlein not to blame for pit penalty, says Sauber
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36, Carlos Sainz Jr., Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12, Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-17
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36, Carlos Sainz Jr., Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12, Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-17
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36-Ferrari
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber C36-Ferrari, Carlos Sainz Jr., Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12

Wehrlein produced a stunning drive on a unique one-stop strategy to run seventh on the road at Barcelona.

But he was just approaching the final chicane when the virtual safety car was deployed, following Stoffel Vandoorne's collision with Felipe Massa, and the team reacted by issuing the call for him to pit.

The late instruction meant he failed to stay to the correct side of the pit entry bollard, which led to the German being handed a five-second time penalty.

That meant he lost seventh to Carlos Sainz but though he looked set to fall out of the points, a late burst of speed helped him secure a career-best eighth and Sauber's first points of the season.

"It was an excellent drive," team boss Monisha Kaltenborn told Motorsport.com. "It's sad that the call was made so late to get him in that he got that penalty but it doesn't matter.

"He had a split second, the call just came a bit too late but he could still react. But we shouldn't be crying about what could have been - we're happy with what there is."

Explaining the late call, head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar added: "It's a shame that Pascal got a penalty but we were thinking about pitting at that time.

"There was confusion between the virtual safety car and us pitting. When the virtual safety car came in, we were just at the entry of the chicane so it was too late - that's why he missed it [the bollard]."

Wehrlein said it was imperative he pitted immediately on receiving the instruction to ensure the team's strategy paid off.

"I got the call when I was already there on the last corner but I knew that when they called me so late it was important to come in," he said.

"I missed the bollard but if I hadn't have stopped that lap everyone behind would have overtaken me so this was my last chance to score points. I knew that something [a penalty] was coming."

Kaltenborn said Wehrlein's performance answered those who questioned his decision to miss the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix following a back injury.

"It's great for him because he was exposed to a lot of unfair criticism and definitely not professional criticism," she said. "It's important for his confidence, because he is a talented driver - that's why we signed him.

"These results are good for his development. This performance answers his critics - I don't know what they would criticise now."

Additional reporting by Oleg Karpov

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