Pascal Wehrlein took an unusual route to F1, spending three seasons in the DTM and winning the title in 2015 before earning his grand prix debut with Manor the following year.
Pascal Wehrlein biography
Birthplace: Sigmaringen, Germany
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After a five-year stint in karts Wehrlein made a successful transition to single-seaters. He clinched Germany’s Formula Masters title at his second attempt in 2011 with seven wins despite being disqualified on no fewer than three occasions.
That prompted a move up to the F3 Euroseries with the same Mucke team. Wehrlein impressed with his consistency, taking a strong second in the championship behind the more experienced Daniel Juncadella. He beat the likes of Raffaele Marciello and Felix Rosenqvist despite only winning one of the 24 races. This was at the Nurburgring, where Wehrlein hit the front after several cars collided on the first lap, among them Juncadella who earned a penalty.
Wehrlein also placed fourth in the FIA’s European Formula Three standings and scored top-five finishes in the prestigious Macau and Masters events.
A return to the expanded European Formula Three series was planned for 2012 and Wehrlein was on the grid for the season-opening triple-header at Monza, taking a win in worsening wet conditions. However by then it was already known he would not be seeing the season out.
Ralf Schumacher’s abrupt departure from Mucke’s DTM squad left them with a seat to fill, and the 18-year-old was duly called up.
Wehrlein qualified a creditable eighth on his debut (fourth of the six Mercedes drivers) and led early in the race after running a long opening stint on the soft tyres. He dropped back to 11th at the flag. But it wasn’t until the following season that he began to show signs of promise. He took fourth on the grid at the Norising – his best up until that point – though he fell to fifth at the flag after being spun around by Adrien Tambay.
His breakthrough came at the Laustizring, where pre-race preparations were condensed to just 15 minutes of practice as the medical helicopter was unable to take off due to low cloud. In damp conditions, Wehrlein snatched pole position and dominated the race.
Three days earlier Wehrlein had his first experience in an F1 car at the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal, driving Mercedes’ 2012 F1 W03. He had already played a substantial role in the development of the team’s championship-wining W05 in the simulator, logging over 12,000 kilometres in 30 days of running.
Mercedes appointed Wehrlein as the team’s official reserve driver and he began joining the team at F1 race weekends. In the meantime he returned for a third crack at the DTM.
Performance ballast shaped the 2015 DTM season: a team’s success from race to race was strongly affected by how much weight they had to carry. But an improved Mercedes C-Class and Wehrlein’s remarkable consistency turned him from a one-time winner into a champion.
This came despite a major controversy at the Red Bull Ring where Wehrlein was pushed into a gravel trap by the team mate of title rival Mattias Ekstrom. That temporarily cost Ekstrom his lead in the championship, though he regained it with a victory at the next round in Moscow. It was his second and final of the year, but his consistency told over the season. He clinched the title at Hockenheim with a race to spare.
Wehrlein had begun 2015 with testing duties for Mercedes – standing in for an unwell Lewis Hamilton at one point – and Force India. At the end of the year he tested for Prema’s new GP2 team as a return to single-seater racing appeared to be on the cards.
That proved to be the case – but not in GP2. With Mercedes extending their engine supply to Manor for 2016, Wehrlein was confirmed as the team’s driver the following February.
Manor were a transformed force in 2016 thanks to their Mercedes engine deal. Points were a genuine possibility and it was Wehrlein who delivered their only top ten finish of the season, in Austria.
Halfway through the year pay driver Rio Haryanto was replaced with the highly promising Esteban Ocon and Wehrlein found himself with a tougher fight on his hands. It was Ocon who stood out in the fearsome wet conditions in Brazil.
While Ocon landed a promotion to Force India for 2017, Wehrlein was very publicly overlooked for a Mercedes promotion in favour of Valtteri Bottas. He did, however, secure an F1 return with Sauber.
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