Toto Wolff insists Pascal Wehrlein is still an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Programme despite the German missing out on a place on the Formula 1 grid in 2018.
Wehrlein lost his Sauber F1 Team drive in favour of Ferrari Driver Academy star Charles Leclerc for 2018, with Marcus Ericsson retaining his position in the team despite failing to score points in either of the past two seasons, while the twenty-three-year-old also missed out on a drive with Williams Martini Racing.
But Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, believes Wehrlein is one of the fastest drivers out there and is deserving of a place on the Formula 1 grid, and wherever he may or may not end up racing in 2018, he will still be backed by the German manufacturer.
“Pascal definitely deserves a place in Formula 1 and is certainly one of the fastest drivers,” said Wolff to Motorsport.com. “At the moment it looks a little bit bitter as far as the available [race] driver seats are concerned.
“But he’s definitely going to be on our team. [It is unclear] whether or not he actively participates in a racing series other than Formula 1. He will definitely remain part of our squad.”
Esteban Ocon and George Russell are also part of the Mercedes-Benz programme, with the former remaining with the Sahara Force India F1 Team for a second consecutive season, while the latter has progressed into the FIA Formula 2 Championship on the back of a successful 2017 GP3 Series campaign.