Sauber F1 Team driver Pascal Wehrlein has admitted that he is fully aware he could lose his seat with the Swiss squad, to a Scuderia Ferrari academy driver next year, but is not worried enough yet to need a back-up plan
The Hinwil based team were all set to take Honda engines in 2018, but a change of heart, following the appointment of Frederic Vasseur as Team Principal, saw them renege on that deal, opting to stay with current engine provider Ferrari instead.
The decision led to rumours that the Italian team would be looking to use Sauber as a ‘junior’ squad as part of the arrangement, as a way of introducing their young protégé to the sport, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc in particular on their radar for a step up to F1.
Wehrlein, who only joined the Swiss squad this season, is the most likely of the team’s current drivers to have to step aside, with team-mate Marcus Ericsson having strong ties to Sauber’s financial backers, making it less likely he would be dropped.
The German confirmed in an interview with F1i.com recently that he does not currently know what he will be doing in 2018.
“Obviously Ferrari want to promote their drivers, they have two strong drivers so it makes sense.
“As for my programme for 2018, I don’t know anything yet. But I don’t have a backup plan. It’s only August.
“This year I signed the contract in January and the year before it was even February, but I do hope I will find out soon what is coming for me in 2018.”
Wehrlein is still supported by Mercedes, with whom he won the DTM title in 2015, and who got him his break in F1 with Manor Racing MRT in 2016, having been part of their junior programme.
Since joining Sauber however, he has never really lived up to the potential many felt he possessed, and although he has five points to his name compared to the zero accumulated by Ericsson, through an excellent drive to eighth place in Spain, he has never really put his lesser rated team-mate to shame.
Moreover, with no further updates expected to the C36 at this late stage of the season, with concentration at Sauber now focused on next year, it is unlikely Wehrlein will get a chance to prove his potential to any other interested parties, and we could see him exiting the sport in 2018.