Pascal Wehrlein refuses to deny claim Sauber favour Marcus Ericsson
German declines to answer questions about suggestions Sauber are giving team-mate Marcus Ericsson preferential treatment
By Pete Gill in Baku
Last Updated: 26/06/17 1:21pm
Pascal Wehrlein has pointedly refused to defuse claims that Marcus Ericsson is given preferential treatment at Sauber.
The team's Swedish owners took the extraordinary step of publicly refuting suggestions that Ericsson and Wehrlein had been treated differently this year in the wake of team boss Monisha Kaltenborn's exit.
Asked directly whether he felt his team-mate was being given preferred status at Sauber, Wehrlein responded: "Sorry, I can't answer that."
Upon it being suggested that his non-denial was only likely to fuel the fire, Wehrlein reiterated: "Sorry, I can't answer that."
Wehrlein, a Mercedes junior, joined Sauber at the start of the 2017 season after spending his first year in F1 driving for the now-defunct Manor team. The German scored the team's only points of the season so far with eighth at the Spanish GP.
Asked by Sky Sports News HQ if he felt in any way 'awkward' at the Swiss team, Wehrlein replied: "I'm just trying to do my best. I scored points, I was in Q2 two times, and I'm just trying to extract the maximum out of the tools I have. That's it."
Then asked if he would still be at the team in 2018, the 22-year-old said: "I don't know at the moment. I have a contract for this year."
Kaltenborn was Formula 1's first female team principal but her departure with immediate effect was confirmed by Sauber late on Thursday evening.
"Clearly she saved the team many times," said Wehrlein in tribute to his former boss. "I heard that last year was very difficult for the team and I think it's especially thanks to her the team is still here and Sauber got the deal with the new investors.
"She saved many jobs of many people and, on a personal side, I always got along very well with her and I'm very thankful for what she did for me, especially in the situation when I had my injury."
Rumours that the team's little-known owners had been advocating that the team's management support Ericsson over Wehrlein were strongly denied in the statement issued by Sauber's chairman on Wednesday night.
"The owners and board of Sauber Motorsport AG take strong exception to speculative and widespread media reports today that our race drivers have not been, and are not being, treated equally," said Pascal Picci.
"This is not only patently untrue, it would be contrary to the team's absolute and longstanding commitment to fair competition.
"These reports, attributed to anonymous 'sources', are highly detrimental to both Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein as well as to the management and all staff of the Sauber F1 Team."
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