Mercedes has announced that it will officially end its ties with Pascal Wehrlein at the end of the 2018 season. Wehrlein has been a part of the Mercedes programme for many years and competed for the German squad in DTM from for three seasons, becoming the series' youngest ever champion in 2015.
2016 saw him enter Formula 1 with Manor, however, he was forced to look elsewhere for a seat after the team collapsed at the end of the season. Last year, he joined Sauber alongside Marcus Ericsson, missing out on a Mercedes drive to Valtteri Bottas. He was ousted from Sauber when the team opted to sign Ferrari protege Charles Leclerc for 2018.
Wehrlein returned to DTM this year and is currently 8th in the driver's standings, picking up a podium at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz earlier this year. However, Mercedes has now decided to part ways with the 23-year-old.
"My contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the 2018 season and we have jointly decided not to continue further together," Wehrlein 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 drew 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.”
Wehrlein has been linked with a Formula E seat for the 2018/2019 season, with plenty of drives still available. Toto Wolff commented that it was in Mercedes' best interests to end its relationship with Wehrlein as it couldn't offer him a competitive drive for 2019.
"Our junior programme has always been about supporting young talent and finding opportunities that are in the best interests of the drivers’ careers," he said. "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."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing