Former Formula 1 driver Pascal Wehrlein is leaving the Mercedes factory team as he bids for a return to the world championship.
An F1 driver with Manor in 2016 and Sauber in 2017, Wehrlein was one of the crop of highly rated young talents with the ability to win multiple world championship titles, but with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and current Mercedes F1 pilot Valtteri Bottas filling the factory seats, the German’s F1 options were limited.
Currently driving in DTM (German Touring Cars) — a championship he won in 2015 — for 2018 as a factory Mercedes driver, Wehrlein’s options for 2019 have been limited further by Mercedes deciding to pull out of the DTM series at the end of the year.
Taking matters into his own hands, Wehrlein has now decided to leave Mercedes entirely at the end of the year. With drivers such as Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Formula 2 points leader George Russell struggling to secure an F1 seat due to their Mercedes ties, the decison to leave Mercedes could make the 23-year-old Wehrlein a stronger candidate for a drive than his counterparts.
“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.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff understands Wehrlein’s decision.
“Our junior program 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 recognize 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.”
Wehrlein has made 39 career starts in Formula 1 and has scored top-10 finishes in three races for six points.