DTM driver Pascal Wehrlein has been appointed as the reserve driver for Mercedes, the team announced today.
The 19-year-old German became the youngest race winner in DTM history yesterday when he drove to victory from pole position in a rain-affected race at the Lausitzring.
His appointment does not come without F1 experience, however, as he has clocked up an impressive 12,000km in the Mercedes simulator, the equivalent of roughly fourty Grands Prix. He also drove Mercedes’ 2012 challenger, the W03, at a test drive at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve last Thursday. He drove over 500km during the test which surpasses the 300km minimum experience a driver must have before being eligible for the FIA Super License, a mandatory racing license to compete in a Formula One race.
“It’s a dream come true to have completed this test and now to take on my new role,” Wehrlein was quoted as saying in a Mercedes press release. “All my life, I have worked hard to get the opportunity to drive an F1 car. And it was always my goal to do it with Mercedes-Benz.”
“Pascal has a bright future ahead of him,” Toto Wolff, the Head of Mercedes Motorsport said. “And we are excited to have him onboard for what will be an intense conclusion to the Formula One season.
“He has worked hard behind the scenes this year in our simulator, playing a very important role in our pre-race preparations. Aside from Nico and Lewis, he is the driver most familiar with all the procedures of our F1 W05 Hybrid and therefore the right choice for the role of reserve driver.”
Wehrlein’s appointment will inevitably give fire to rumours that one of Mercedes’ drivers, most likely Lewis Hamilton, will leave the team at the end of the season. There has been tension between the Mercedes drivers since their fight at the Bahrain Grand Prix and subsequent falling out which peaked at the Belgian Grand Prix where Rosberg hit Hamilton during an over-ambitious overtake attempt and caused the Briton’s retirement from the race lead.
Hamilton took victory two weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix following a mistake by Nico Rosberg which saw him go off-track at turn 1 and lose the lead, although he still holds a 22 point lead over Hamilton with six Grands Prix remaining.