Mercedes Formula One (F1) reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein has reached an agreement with Sauber F1 for the 2017 season. This has paved way for Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas to take Nico Rosberg’s vacant Mercedes seat.
Wehrlein’s background with Mercedes led many to believe that German was the favorite to replace Rosberg at the 2016 F1 constructors’ champions. However, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas is now the front runner to take over the mantle, according to Motorsport.com.
The 22-year-old Wehrlein was linked to Sauber F1 in November, last year. However, the talks were put on hold when Rosberg decided to retire from the sport, five days after winning the 2015 F1 world championship.
The deal between Wehrlein and Sauber are yet to be officially agreed though. It is being expected that an official announcement will be made within the next few days, according to ESPN.
Pascal Wehrlein at Monza in 2016
Video courtesy: YouTube.com/Box Box Box
Several reports suggested that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was interested in promoting Wehrleins as their new driver after Rosberg’s shock retirement. This was in accordance to the team’s young driver programme.
However, there were major concerns regarding the driver’s inexperience, considering his only experience in the sport was with a back-of-the-grid Manor team. This led the Brackley-based outfit to pursuit Williams’ Bottas.
Williams did reject an initial bid of $10 million for Bottas. But, after Felipe Massa decided to postpone his retirement and partner Lance Stroll at the team, Williams allowed the Finn to undergo contract talks with Mercedes, as reported by Express.
Meanwhile, Bottas reportedly visited Mercedes’ factory before Christmas for a seat fitting. The 27-year-old also met the engineers with whom he will work in the 2017 season.
It is believed that the Bottas, Wehrlein and Massa announcements were well-coordinated. This is to ensure that no team is left in an awkward position ahead of the new season.
Manor are the only team on the grid which has driver vacancies as the team is currently is takeover talks with interested investors.
Esteban Gutierrez, Felippe Nasr and Rio Haryanto are the drivers being linked with the vacant driver’s seat at Manor.
Photo courtesy: Stefan Brending/Wikimedia