Pascal Wehrlein looks set to return to the F1 paddock as he’s expected to join Ferrari in a development role. The German hasn’t raced in F1 since leaving Sauber at the end of the 2017 season, having spent last year racing for Mercedes in DTM.
Wehrlein was previously considered a future teammate and rival for Lewis Hamilton, but he left the Mercedes program at the end of 2018, and will make his Formula E debut with Mahindra this weekend. Ferrari need to bring in a couple of new faces for this year. Antonio Giovinazzi is still part of their driver academy, and did lots of testing for the team last year, but he’s busy with a race seat at Sauber this year, while Daniil Kvyat, who was the team’s simulator driver in 2018, returns to Toro Rosso for his third stint there.
Ferrari haven’t officially confirmed Wehrlein’s arrival at the team yet, but his contract with Mercedes only came to an end on December 31st, which prevented him competing in the opening round of the Formula E championship. However, Autosport and F1.com report that the role is likely to involve a heavy workload in the simulator to help Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s championship challenge. Wehrlein may be a product of the Mercedes family, but he does come with experience of the Ferrari power unit courtesy of his season at Sauber.
Wehrlein’s ties to Mercedes may have prevented him from securing drives elsewhere on the grid and in other series, but Ferrari development drivers have shown it’s possible to pick up race seats after working with the Scuderia. Kvyat is back in F1 after most people wrote him off, while Jean-Eric Vergne has gone on to win a Formula E title and compete in the World Endurance Championship after spending a couple of seasons as a test driver with Ferrari. It’s already been a busy week for Ferrari as they’ve hired a new Team Principal, promoting Mattia Binotto to replace Maurizio Arrivabene.