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Pascal Wehrlein: Just how good is Mercedes’ new star?

11 Feb 2016

Having only recently turned 21, Pascal Wehrlein can already boast a glittering career in motorsport - a winner in almost every series he has competed in, the DTM’s youngest-ever champion now has a place on the Formula One grid with Manor. So how good is the Mercedes protege - and what can be expected of him in 2016?
Let's start at the beginning: who is he?

Born in southern Germany, Wehrlein has long had links with Mercedes. He has served as their F1 reserve driver since late 2014 - indeed his new role came one day after he took a record-breaking victory for the Silver Arrows in DTM, becoming the youngest winner in the series' history. Last year, he went one step further by becoming the youngest ever DTM champion, beating the likes of former F1 pilots Paul di Resta and Timo Glock along the way. 

Rather remarkably, since making his car racing debut six years ago at the age of 16, Wehrlein has never gone a calendar year without winning at least once.

So his background is touring cars then?

Not at all - in fact he had next to no experience of touring cars before being thrust into the DTM, at the age of 18, in 2013.

Instead Wehrlein cut his teeth in single seaters - indeed before moving into the DTM, he was able to contest the opening round of the 2013 FIA European Formula Three championship at Monza. He took pole for the opening race, and left the triple-header with one win and three podiums, leaving him second in the championship at that time.

He had raced in European F3 the season before too, winning once and claiming six podiums against a talented field that included Toro Rosso hotshot Carlos Sainz. Before that, Wehrlein had spent two years in the ADAC Formula Masters series - he won once and took four podiums in his debut season in 2010, before storming to the title one year later with seven poles, eight wins and 13 podiums from the 24 races.

He's pretty handy then - but does he have any F1 experience?

An impressive amount actually, especially for a 21-year-old. 

His first true taste came in 2014 - he had already been doing valuable simulator work for Mercedes, and then managed 500km in a two-year-old F1 car at a private test. But the biggest step came at the end of the year when he drove for Mercedes in the season-ending Abu Dhabi test. Up against the likes of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, Wehrlein impressed by going fastest of everyone on day two, a full six-tenths clear of the rest of the field.

More testing opportunities came in 2015: Wehrlein drove for six days in total, his time split between Mercedes and Force India. He was again impressive - not just in the way he closely matched the times of Nico Rosberg or Nico Hulkenberg, but also for his consistency and almost total lack of mistakes. In total, he racked up 604 laps of official testing last year.

Impressive. So what has the F1 community said about him?

"He definitely has the ability to be in Formula One, to be one of the very successful ones," was the verdict of Mercedes' motorsport chief Toto Wolff in an interview with Autosport in December last year.

Manor, with whom Wehrlein will contest his maiden F1 campaign, are clearly fans too. 

"Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard," was the assessment from the team's owner Stephen Fitzpatrick. 

"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!"

Anything else we need to know about him?

He'll race with the number 94 in F1 - the same number he took to the DTM title. The number 94 also represents 1994 - the year of his birth.