Pascal Wehrlein settles for 'patience' over top Formula 1 seat

Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor poses for a portrait during day one of F1 winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 1, 2016
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Pascal Wehrlein says that Mercedes did not sign him up for 2017 in order to safeguard the longevity of his F1 career.

Pascal Wehrlein has said that Mercedes did not sign him up for 2017 in order to safeguard the longevity of his Formula 1 career.

German Wehrlein, 22, is the senior member of Mercedes's driver development programme and was therefore a favourite when Nico Rosberg announced his shock decision to quit F1 late last year.

Ultimately, the older and more experienced Toto Wolff-linked driver Valtteri Bottas was signed up for 2017, on a mere single-season contract.

"Toto told me he didn't want to burn me," Wehrlein told Germany's Sport Bild.

"He said they still believe in me and that I should instead build myself up in peace. Of course I hoped for a change to the world champion team, but when Mercedes went for Bottas, I wasn't too disappointed.

"Why? Because my original 'plan A' was still fulfilled."

That 'plan A' was the 2017 move from the backmarker Manor to Sauber, a more established midfield team.

However, winter testing has shown that, after almost collapsing last year and now set to use Ferrari's 2016-spec engine this year, Sauber will almost certainly be F1's new backmarker in 2017.

Still, Wehrlein is happy, saying: "Sauber is at the beginning of an era. There is enormous potential in the team and I am proud to be a part of this building back up. We have a highly professional, international team."

For instance, Wehrlein said that he was blown away by Sauber's state of the art wind tunnel at Hinwil, adding: "As I said, I think there is huge potential in the team.

"But we will have to have a little patience."

The 2017 championship kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix next Sunday.

Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor poses for a portrait during day one of F1 winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 1, 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