Pascal Wehrlein is the latest name to be added to the 2016 Formula One roster after he was confirmed by Manor on Wednesday. The highly-rated German driver will be one of only two new faces on the grid this season – the other being Britain’s Jolyon Palmer – following a winter of relative status quo.
Mercedes have been keen to get Wehrlein into an F1 race seat and have agreed a deal with Manor to allow them the use of the Brackley wind tunnel in exchange for them recruiting their reserve driver.
Indeed eight of the 10 teams from last season have named an unchanged driver line-up for the new campaign which gets under way in Melbourne on March 20 – with newcomers Haas joining as the 11th constructor. So with just one more seat to be confirmed, here’s the list of who is driving for whom.
- Lewis Hamilton (GBR)
- Nico Rosberg (GER)
- Sebastian Vettel (GER)
- Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)
- Felipe Massa (BRA)
- Valtteri Bottas (FIN)
- Daniel Ricciardo (AUS)
- Daniil Kvyat (RUS)
- Sergio Pérez (MEX)
- Nico Hülkenberg (GER)
- Jolyon Palmer (GBR)
- Kevin Magnussen (DEN)
- Max Verstappen (HOL)
- Carlos Sainz (SPA)
- Felipe Nasr (BRA)
- Marcus Ericsson (SWE)
- Jenson Button (GBR)
- Fernando Alonso (SPA)
- Pascal Wehrlein (GER)
*contenders: Alexander Rossi (USA), Will Stevens (GBR), Rio Haryant (IDN)*
- Romain Grosjean (FRA)
- Esteban Gutiérrez (MEX)
Nationalities: GER (x4), GBR (x3), SPA (x2), BRA (x2), FIN (x2), MEX (x2), AUS (x1), RUS (x1), DEN (x1), SWE (x1), HOL (x1), FRA (x1)
Pascal Wehrlein, former reserve driver to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, will make his full grand prix debut in Australia next month. Today’s confirmation of the German driver leaves Englishman Will Stevens, who competed for the team last season, facing an uncertain future.
Manor will be backed by Mercedes power for the first time in 2016, and Wehrlein expects last season’s backmarkers to challenge for points in his debut campaign. “Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula One racing career and I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said.
“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, who won last year’s DTM series competing for Mercedes, added: “A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto Wolff, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible.
“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 began their journey in the sport in 2010 as Virgin Racing backed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, before being renamed Marussia and then Manor.
The team scored their only-ever points at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix when Jules Bianchi, the Frenchman who suffered an ultimately fatal crash in that season’s race in Japan, finished ninth.
Fitzpatrick, the British businessman, who poured in a reported £30million ($45million) of his own money to rescue the team from administration, added: “Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard.
“We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.
“Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year.
“Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it.”
Manor are yet to name their second driver but earlier this week American Alexander Rossi, who drove for Manor in the latter half of 2015, said his chances were “looking positive”.
Moreover Indonesia’s Rio Haryant has been publicly backed by his own government, which leaves Will Stevens’ hopes of a second season in F1 on a knife-edge.