Sauber have announced Pascal Wehrlein as their second driver for 2017. The German should have been in contention for a seat at Mercedes, for me this decision is slightly disappointing.
Clearly, his lack of experience made it difficult for Mercedes. While Wehrlein impressed in the Manor car last year, there have been question marks about his attitude. The arrival of Esteban Ocon to Manor midway through last season also provided more insight into
Wehrlein’s relative pace. I think Ocon’s immediate move to Force India will have sent a message to his former team-mate. He must do more to earn his chance.
It is disheartening that Mercedes took what could be seen as the “safe” option. Vatteri Bottas absolutely deserves his chance, but at the expense of an exciting young talent? I’m not so sure. When we can see the likes of Verstappen and Vandoorne putting in exceptional performances, they are proving that the younger drivers are more than capable.
I think Formula One needs the kind of excitement that Wehrlein could have brought to Mercedes. It would have provided an intriguing dynamic within the team. I would have loved to have seen how the young German stacked up against a three-time World Champion.
We may will still get that comparison one day. But for now, Wehrlein has other things to concentrate on. Up against Marcus Ericsson, he will now need to show the speed that is deserving of a seat at Mercedes. I would expect him to have the edge in speed, but his performances will need to be convincing. The Constructors’ Champions are going to take some convincing.
Looking to the future, Pascal will have to be patient. At the age of 22, he still has time to achieve his ambitions. There is no doubt he has the talent if he is willing to work for his chance. A decent year at Sauber would go some way towards opening a door at other teams. His Mercedes backing is definitely a lure to prospective suitors.
((1) Alberto-g-rovi CC BY-SA 4.0)
((2) Marc Evans CC BY-SA 2.0)