Former Manor Racing MRT and Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein has signed a deal that will see him line up for the Sauber F1 Team in 2017, the Swiss squad confirmed today.
The German driver had been in the running to replace the recently retired Nico Rosberg at the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, however bosses felt that Wehrlein did not quite have the experience required to drive for their full works team at this stage of his career, and it is looking more and more likely that Valtteri Bottas will get that coveted prize.
Wehrlein also recently missed out on the seat to replace Nico Hulkenberg at the Sahara Force India F1 Team, to team-mate Esteban Ocon, who despite having less F1 experience than the German, won the Silverstone based squad over with his professional attitude on and off the track.
Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn however, believes the Swiss squad have made a strong signing in Wehrlein, who showed his talent by scoring one point for Manor, with a strong drive at the Austrian Grand Prix last year.
“We are very pleased to confirm Pascal Wehrlein as our second race driver for the 2017 Formula 1 world championship.
“Pascal has shown his talent throughout his career – in single seater racing as well as in the DTM. Last year in his rookie Formula 1 season, he proved his potential by scoring one point in the Austrian GP in Spielberg.
“There is surely more to come from Pascal, and we want to give him the chance to further grow and learn at the pinnacle of motorsport. I am confident Marcus and Pascal will form a solid combination for 2017.”
Wehrlein will partner Swede Marcus Ericsson, who will compete in his third season with the squad next year, and the German is looking forward to the new challenge ahead of him.
“I am very delighted at being a part of the Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming Formula One Season. It is a new challenge in a new team, and I am really excited and looking forward to this new adventure.
“Our objective is to establish ourselves in the mid-field and to score points on a regular basis. That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber. Now I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and to tackling the preparations for the 2017 season.
“I want to say a big thank you to Sauber for trusting in me and giving me this great chance. And surely, a huge thanks also goes to Mercedes for the support.”
Despite signing up to receive 2016 specification Scuderia Ferrari engines next year, Sauber are confident of being able to challenge in 2017.
Scuderia Toro Rosso took old Ferrari engines last season, and lack of updates hurt them during the latter half of the season, but the Swiss squad believe that whatever performance they lose on the engine front, they will be able to make back on the chassis side of things.
Despite many people feeling this was a sideways or even backwards step for Wehrlein before the news that Manor had gone into administration, the stability Sauber now have through their financial backers means they should have the resources to build a competitive car in 2017.
Someone of the German’s talents therefore, should have no problem showcasing their skill in such a machine.