Gerhard Berger would have picked Pascal Wehrlein over Valtteri Bottas

Former driver Gerhard Berger sits in a car on track after qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 20, 2015
© Getty Images
F1 legend Gerhard Berger says that if he were in charge at Mercedes, he would have signed Pascal Wehrlein for 2017.

Formula 1 legend Gerhard Berger has said that if he were in charge at Mercedes, he would have signed Pascal Wehrlein for 2017.

The former Ferrari and McLaren driver helped negotiate Nico Rosberg's lucrative new contract earlier this year, but the German quit F1 as soon as he won the 2016 title.

Now, it appears that Mercedes have negotiated a complex contract release with Williams so that Valtteri Bottas can replace Rosberg.

However, Berger told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "I would have taken Wehrlein. Because it would underline your [driver] programme.

"Wehrlein gave a convincing impression in the programme, but he can only show how good he really is in a top car."

However, Berger said that he understands Mercedes's reasoning.

"Compared to Bottas, Wehrlein is certainly a risk. But perhaps the most clever solution is not always the obvious one," he said.

"I rate Bottas highly. He is fast, a good team player, a nice guy and he has earned the chance to prove himself. On the other hand, he did not stand out from Massa enough to say clearly 'He is the right choice'."

Berger also thinks that Mercedes's 2017 solution is only an "interim" one.

"Mercedes needs to think about the future regarding its drivers, because even [Lewis] Hamilton's contract will expire. They need an interim solution with a view to 2018," he said.

"The most important thing now is to find a second driver so that Hamilton doesn't fall asleep. But it could also be that without Nico, Lewis finds the peace he needs and doesn't get himself into trouble.

"I believe Mercedes will again be the benchmark in 2017."

The new season begins with the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 29, 2016
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TeamPoints
1Ferrari102
2Mercedes99
3Red Bull47
4Force India17
5Williams-Mercedes16
6Toro Rosso12
7Haas8
8Renault2
9Sauber0
10McLaren0
DriversTeamPoints
1Sebastian VettelFerrari68
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes61
3Valtteri BottasMercedes38
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari34
5Max VerstappenRed Bull25
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull22
7Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes16
8Sergio PerezForce India14
9Carlos SainzToro Rosso10
10Kevin MagnussenHaas4
11Romain GrosjeanHaas4
12Esteban OconForce India3
13Nico HulkenbergRenault2
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso2
15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren0
16Marcus EricssonSauber0
17Antonio GiovinazziSauber0
18Jolyon PalmerRenault0
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren0
20Pascal WehrleinSauber0
21Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes0