Manor have announced the signing of Pascal Wehrlein for the upcoming Formula One season.
Wehrlein, former reserve driver to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, will make his full grand prix debut in Australia next month.
The 21-year-old German is the first driver to be confirmed by Manor and 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.
“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 (Dh160m) 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.”
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”.
Indonesia’s Rio Haryant and Stevens, the 25-year-old racer from Essex, are also hopeful of landing the final spot on the Formula One grid.
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