Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein has put himself firmly in the frame for a full-time Formula 1 drive in 2016 after clinching the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) Drivers’ Championship in the series’ final round at Hockenheim.
On the eve of his 21st birthday, Wehrlein clinched the crown by finishing Saturday’s race in eighth place to become the youngest ever driver to achieve the feat in German touring car history.
In a fiercely-fought championship battle where no less than thirteen drivers claimed a race victory over the 18-race calendar season, Wehrlein stood above all through a remarkably consistent year where he claimed points in all but two races, despite his AMG Mercedes C-Coupé being considered a slower car than rival Audi’s RS5 DTM challenger.
Wehrlein’s rise through to the top of the pile in the DTM series has been rapid. He made his debut just three years ago as the championship’s youngest ever driver and won his first race just over a year ago at the Lausitzring.
This year’s highlights included two further wins at the Norisring and Moscow Raceway, as well as a number of impressive test outings for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team in his capacity as the team’s official reserve driver.
His success will surely prompt Mercedes to investigate how they can further develop the youngster’s Formula 1 aspirations.
With the Manor F1 Team’s recent announcement that it will use Mercedes power units next season, one option potentially at Mercedes’ disposal is to give Wehrlein a debut season in Formula 1 with the backmarker outfit, no doubt with a discounted price on its engines as a sweetener for the British outfit.
It would present a less-pressured environment for Wehrlein to strut his stuff and show that he has the talent for a seat further up the grid. That surely has to be in Mercedes’ line of thinking.
Given Manor’s focuses this year have been on strengthening the team as it comes back from the brink of a complete shutdown during the previous off-season, focus on its 2016 driver line-up has very much been secondary for the moment at least.
Images via ITR eV