Former Formula 1 driver Pascal Wehrlein has decided to part ways with Mercedes after the end of the 2018 season.
The German driver joined the junior programme of the manufacturer in 2013 and started his DTM career in the same year. He raced in the championship for three seasons alongside donning the role of Mercedes F1’s test and reserve driver – also of Force India in 2015.
Wehrlein won the DTM title in 2015 with Mercedes and subsequently made his F1 debut in 2016 with Manor. He switched teams in 2017 with Sauber after losing out a Force India drive to fellow Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon.
Having found no seat in F1 in 2018, he was forced to return to DTM where he currently sits eighth in the standings with 100 points after eight rounds in the season. He has now decided to leave the Mercedes programme after his contract expires at the end of 2018.
“My contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the 2018 season and we have jointly decided not to continue further together,” he said. “I am looking for new challenges and opportunities, and am currently talking to other teams about a cockpit for next season.
“I am very grateful for all the support Mercedes has offered me – from my first meeting with Gerhard Ungar and Norbert Haug in 2012, to the decision with Toto to join DTM instead of F3 in 2013, through to my title in 2015; it was a dream come true for a kid who grew up an hour from Stuttgart.
“That opened the door to Formula 1, first with Manor and then Sauber; the points I scored with both teams were huge moments. Thank you to everybody in Stuttgart, Affalterbach and Brackley who has supported me along the way.
“And now it’s time to take the next step.” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added: “Our junior programme has always been about supporting young talent and finding opportunities that are in the best interests of the drivers’ careers.
“It is not always a straight path to the top – and sometimes we have to recognise 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.” It has been a tough run for the German manufacturer in terms of putting their young drivers in F1.
After Wehrlein lost his seat, Ocon is in a danger as well with the buyout of Force India by Lawrence Stroll which puts Lance in the seat alongside Sergio Perez. The Frenchman has Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso only as his options.
At the same time, Mercedes has another youngster George Russell waiting in their wings with the British driver leading the FIA Formula 2 Championship standings with two rounds to go.