Pascal Wehrlein will leave the Mercedes-Benz family after six years at the end of 2018, it was confirmed on Friday afternoon.
The German became the youngest DTM Series starter with Mercedes-Benz back in 2013 before becoming the series’ youngest winner in 2014 and youngest champion in 2015.
He then spent two seasons in Formula 1, firstly with the Manor Racing MRT squad in 2016 and then with the Sauber F1 Team in 2017, although he lost his seat ahead of 2018 as the Swiss squad opted to replace him with the Scuderia Ferrari-backed Charles Leclerc.
In both of his campaigns, he often out-performed his car, securing a point for Manor in the Austrian Grand Prix in his rookie campaign and five points for Sauber last year, including an eighth-place finish in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Without a Formula 1 drive in 2018, Wehrlein returned to the DTM Series and currently sits eighth in the championship standings, but after the conclusion he will no longer be backed by Mercedes.
“My contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the 2018 season and we have jointly decided not to continue further together,” said Wehrlein. “I am looking for new challenges and opportunities, and am currently talking to other teams about a cockpit for next season.
“I am very grateful for all the support Mercedes has offered me – from my first meeting with Gerhard Ungar and Norbert Haug in 2012, to the decision with Toto to join DTM instead of F3 in 2013, through to my title in 2015; it was a dream come true for a kid who drew up an hour from Stuttgart.
“That opened the door to Formula 1, first with Manor and then Sauber; the points I scored with both teams were huge moments. Thank you to everybody in Stuttgart, Affalterbach and Brackley who has supported me along the way. And now it’s time to take the next step.”
Toto Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, has been struggling to give his young drivers race seats in Formula 1 in recent weeks, with Esteban Ocon and George Russell both still seeking 2019 seats, but the inability to provide Wehrlein with a competitive seat next year was the primary reason for parting with the German.
“Our junior programme has always been about supporting young talent and finding opportunities that are in the best interests of the drivers’ careers,” said Wolff. “It is not always a straight path to the top – and sometimes we have to recognise that it is the right time to end a relationship, too.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer Pascal a competitive drive for next year. In his best interests, we have therefore decided together with Pascal not to extend our agreement and to give him the best chance of securing an opportunity elsewhere that his talent merits.
“We want to thank him for his fantastic performances for Mercedes-Benz in recent years and wish him all the best for the future.”