Wehrlein deal made Force India test ‘viable’ – Fernley

Sahara Force India’s participation in the first of the two Formula 1 pre-season tests at the Circuit de Catalunya was assisted by Mercedes paying to allow Pascal Wehrlein some time in the car.

Mercedes offered Force India a financial incentive to enable their reserve driver Wehrlein to get some much needed track time as he looks to back up regularly drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Force India had been struggling to ready their 2015 VJM08, and only unveiled it part of the way through day two of the final test last week.

Speaking to Autosport, Force India’s Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said the teams presence in the previous test at the circuit was only made viable by Mercedes’ paying to allow Wehrlein two-days on track, with regular drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez having a day each.

“Mercedes wanted him to have some time in the car and it suited us in terms of being able to run the car,” said Fernley.

“It was a pleasure for us to do it. It was obviously financially worthwhile and also allowed us to get Nico and Sergio back up to speed before the third test – so it was win-win.”

Fernley also revealed that it might be possible to see Wehrlein back testing for the team at some point during the season, but doubt’s the German will become the team’s new reserve driver.

“No we haven’t discussed that with Mercedes,” insisted Fernley. “It was just a one-off. He will probably run again for us in one of the young driver tests but at this point, we don’t have any plans for him in the long term.”

These revelations will throw further doubt into the fire about Force India’s financial situation, especially when the team are seeking advancement on a payment from Formula One Management (FOM).

“We have made it clear to the commercial rights holder that we have problems, as have Lotus and Sauber,” said Fernley to Autosport.

“It’s not isolated to one team. We have not had any help to date, but hopefully we will get some help. We are in discussions on it.

“Bernie [Ecclestone] has been extremely understanding. He’s a racer. He understands from his days how difficult it is. I think he realises this is serious.”