Manor Racing, the last team to reveal their lineup for the 2016 season, have announced 21-year-old Pascal Wehrlein as their primary driver for the 2016 season. Wehrlein, who will make his Formula One debut this year, has been Mercedes’ test and reserve driver in addition to participating in the DTM – the Deutsche Tournewagen Masters – a series at which he is the youngest ever champion.
He’s a new face, but a fast one. Here’s your guide to Pascal Wehrlein.
Like every other Formula One driver on the grid, Wehrlein made his start with motorsport in karting, making his debut at 9.
He’s from a country known for some of Formula One’s fastest drivers – and arguably its best of all time, Michael Schumacher. Born to a German father in Baden-Wurttemberg, Wehrlein holds dual nationalities, as his mother is Mauritian. He has always competed in motorsport as a German driver, however.
At 16, Wehrlein made his open wheel racing debut at Germany’s ADAC Formel Masters, joining Mucke Motorsport. The German team have seen some of the biggest names in the sport, among them the most successful on the current grid, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel himself won the Formel Masters title for the team in 2004, a feat Wehrlein would repeat in 2011, his second year with the team. He scored eight wins and 13 podium spots in all of the year's 24 races, and impressed enough to make a move to Formula 3 the following year.
He stayed with Mucke in Formula 3, called up to the Formula 3 Euro Series in its final year. The transition to the larger stage of single-seater racing was a smooth one for the still-teenage Wehrlein, who only had one win – at the Nurburgring – that year, but managed to remain on the podium for 10 races, netting him an overall second place finish in the championships.
After a strong performance in his debut Formula 3 year, Wehrlein saw his performances decline in the following years, and in 2013 moved to DTM – or the Deutsche Tournewagen Masters, staying on with Mucke for his first year there. Susie Stoddart and Mathias Lauda, son of 3-time World Champion Niki, are among others who drove for the team in the DTM.
DTM, although it has rounds in other countries in Europe, focuses primarily on Germany. Participants drive models of production line cars that have been specifically, and in many cases drastically, adapted for racing conditions, with changes to the construction of the chassis and the monocoque.
This change was not as easy for Wehrlein, whose only achievement of note that year was a single fastest lap. He finished his debut season in DTM with 3 points, near the bottom of the grid. He stayed in the category the following year, but changed allegiances to join HWA Team.
And thus would begin his association with Mercedes. HWA Team’s eponymous parent company, who manufacture motor vehicle components for Mercedes-Benz’ high performance division, Mercedes AMG – which also lends its name to the iconic German side’s works team – Mercedes AMG Petronas.
That association would prove fruitful for Wehrlein who, towards the end of the 2014 season, was called up as a test and reserve driver for Mercedes’ Formula One team in addition to Force India. He took part in preseason testing for both teams ahead of the 2015 season, which would be his best in terms of results.
Wehrlein finished every single race in the 2015 DTM season either as the winner or the runner-up, finishing on top of the standings with 169 points. At 21 years old, the German became the youngest ever champion of the Deutsche Tournewagen Masters.
Manor used Ferrari engines during the 2015 season – an association that will now change drastically, with Mercedes supplying their works team, Force India and Manor, the last of which they confirmed late last year.
Now Manor, previously Manor-Marussia, who finished last year at the bottom of the championship standings, will make their associations with Mercedes even stronger with Wehrlein being called up to Formula One. It has been revealed that Manor will use Mercedes’ wind tunnel facilities in a quid pro quo for giving Wehrlein a Formula One seat.
Wehrlein’s co-driver has yet to be revealed, although several sources suggest it is likely to be American Alexander Rossi, who drove five races for the team last year in place of Will Stevens, and had better results than his British counterpart.
This means that both Stevens and then-teammate Roberto Merhi are likely to be out of a seat, although they may receive testing roles.