Pascal Wehrlein to make F1 debut in 2016 with Manor
German youngster joins Britain's Jolyon Palmer as a 2016 F1 rookie
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 19/02/16 11:06am
Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein has been named as Manor's first race driver for the 2016 season.
The 21-year-old German has served as understudy to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes since 2014 and last year became the youngest ever champion in DTM, Germany's leading touring car series.
Manor had been the only team on the grid not to name either of their drivers for the new season, but with less than two weeks until testing begins in Spain, the Banbury-based outfit have finally announced the arrival of Wehrlein.
The youngster had been linked to a race seat at the team ever since they secured the coup of Mercedes engines for 2016. Wehrlein will be the second rookie on the grid after Renault's Jolyon Palmer, and the fourth German driver.
"Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career - I'm very pleased to be here," said Wehrlein.
"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 [owner] Stephen [Fitzpatrick] 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."
Wehrlein competed seven test days last season, four for Mercedes and three for Force India, having first driven an F1 car in late 2014.
"A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto [Wolff], who have guided my career thus far and made this opportunity possible," he added. "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."
Manor owner Stephen Fitzpatrick described the young German as a "sharp driver with a very promising future" and believes "Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season".
The team are yet to announce who will fill the second seat, the only one still open on the 2016 grid.
Two of their race drivers from last season, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens, are thought to be in contention along with Indonesian Rio Haryanto.
Rossi competed in five of the final seven races for Manor in 2015 and told Sky Sports last week "things are looking positive" in his attempts to secure a full-time drive.
Pascal Wehrlein career summary
|2011||ADAC Formel Masters champion|
|2012||Formula 3 Euroseries runner-up|
|2013||FIA European F3 (three races, one win, two podiums), DTM 22nd|
|2014||DTM 8th, Mercedes F1 test driver|
|2015||DTM champion, Mercedes and Force India F1 test driver|
Manor enter a new era in 2016 following the departures of long-time lieutenants John Booth and Graeme Lowdon.
In addition to the arrival of Mercedes' latest engines, the team have signed F1 stalwarts Dave Ryan, Nikolas Tombazis and Pat Fry as they aim to move away from the back of the grid.
Manor have confirmed their 2015 car will be called the MRT05 and make its debut at the opening Barcelona test on February 22-25.
Meanwhile, Mercedes now have two of their young drivers in roles at other teams after France's Esteban Ocon was loaned to Renault to serve as reserve driver.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
Williams: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat
Force India: Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez
Renault: Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer
Toro Rosso: Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz
Sauber: Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson
McLaren: Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button
Manor: Pascal Wehrlein and TBC
Haas: Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez
The first Barcelona test starts on Monday February 22 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days of both Barcelona tests while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.
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