Pascal Wehrlein has been confirmed as a Sauber driver for 2017, ending months of speculation about his future.
As a Mercedes-contracted driver, Wehrlein had been considered as a potential replacement for Nico Rosberg at Mercedes when the reigning world champion announced his retirement at the end of 2016. But with just one season of F1 experience at back-markers Manor, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff felt Wehrlein would benefit from more experience at a smaller team.
The 22-year-old German will race alongside Marcus Ericsson at Sauber this season.
“We are very pleased to confirm Pascal Wehrlein as our second race driver for the 2017 Formula One world championship,” team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said. “Pascal has shown his talent throughout his career — in single seater racing as well as in the DTM. Last year in his rookie Formula One 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 added: “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 midfield 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.”
Sauber secured new investment in 2016, but this year’s car is likely to be hamstrung by a year-old Ferrari engine. It is rumoured a switch to Mercedes power could follow in 2018.
Valtteri Bottas is expected to be confirmed as Rosberg’s replacement at Mercedes this week, which in turn will result in Felipe Massa continuing at Williams for another year. Two seats remain at Wehrlein’s former team Manor if the team can find a new owner and escape administration before its end-of-January deadline.