On Wednesday, the Manor Racing team confirmed that they have signed Mercedes’ reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein for the 2016 season.
Mercedes reserve Wehrlein has joined Manor on a one-year contract which is to be believed is worth around €5-6million to the back-of-the-grid team.
Although Manor is to run with this year’s spec of Mercedes engine, Wehrlein’s move is completely independent of the power unit supply contract. Crucially for Manor, in terms of aerodynamic development over the course of this season, it will have access to Mercedes’ 50 per cent windtunnel facility at Brackley.
In a statement to the media on Wednesday Wehrlein said the following about racing for the Manor team in his debut season in F1 as follows:-
‘Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career – I’m very pleased to be here.It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen [Fitzpatrick, owner] and the guys achieve their goals.
‘It will be a tough challenge, but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It’s going to be good fun. A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto [Wolff], who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track.’
Wehrlein who last season became the youngest champion in the history of the DTM, will race with the number 94 he used to claim that title. He will also retain his reserve role with Mercedes. Wehrlein was named as understudy to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in September 2014 and has enjoyed a number of outings in the car.
It is understood Mercedes can recall Wehrlein should injury or illness preclude Hamilton or Rosberg from driving over the course of a grand prix weekend, but not in last-minute circumstances to avoid impacting on Manor.
To that end Esteban Ocon, named as reserve with Renault last week and is set to replace his seat in the DTM series, will also continue with the German marque after he was handed a role with the F1 team last November.
Looking ahead to the season with Wehrlein, Team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick said the following about signing Wehrlein to the team as follows:-
‘Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future. Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard. We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.
‘Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it.’