He had a very busy start to the Barcelona testing last Thursday, finding himself in a Force India in the morning and then hoping into a Mercedes in the afternoon. Pascal Wehrlein, the 20-year-old Mercedes Reserve Driver, is an emerging face in the paddock of F1 – but who exactly is he? In this blog post I will look back at his journey up to now, exploring how he managed to secure such a brilliant role in Mercedes when he was just 19.
Pascal was born in Sigmaringen, a town in southern Germany, and I understand currently resides in Worndorf, Germany. He had his first karting experience aged just eight in 2003.
“Right after the first contact with a kart, I was crazy abut it,” he recalls in an interview from last year. “I drove as much as possible.”
Just a year later in May 2004, Pascal was given his very first kart. With his own personal kart, he stopped racing for fun and began to take the sport more seriously – signing up for the Schwarzwald Cup. The cup consisted of ten indoor races, held on five tracks, every year. On their website, the hosts call the series “the most successful junior indoor karting championship in Southern Germany”. Pascal finished his first professional season in second place, just one point behind that of the winner.
Wehrlein talked about how he was “karting almost every weekend and my parents were
always there”, in addition to the support his older sister has for him in motorsport,
calling her a ‘big fan’ of his.Pascal started training in karting and became close with TR Racing and the Team Principal Rade Trnavac. He raced karts from 2005 until 2009, taking part in the DMV Championships at the beginning of his career in 2005. He would then go on to play his first ‘big races’ in the spring at Bopfingen within the ADAC Kart Cup. 2005 also saw Wehrlein win the title in the South Regional Championship.
Pascal made winning look like a piece of cake, taking the title at the 2006 Bambini A Class National Championships South and North. He was also Federal Champion and runner-up in the East.I mentioned DMV earlier within the many statistics of win after win, but DMV would prove to be a big part of Pascal’s future. The German Motor Sports Association, or Deutsche Motorsport Verband (DMV), is a non-profit organisation that perform national and international motorsport events in Germany. As a charity, the DMV likes to pay close attention to the youth of German Motorsport and can offer training, funding and promotion to the best of their country’s young racers.
Pascal’s talents were picked up by DMV, crowning Wehrlein their karter of the year in both 2006 and 2007 whilst he raced in their German Championship for karters.
In 2008, Pascal became the first kart driver ever who manage to win the DMV German Championship consecutively for three years in his age group. In his younger karting days, ranging from 2005 to 2008, Pascal had collected 81 podium finishes, 44 of which were victories.
In 2009, he was promoted to the powerful KF2 class, a kart racing class for top drivers aged 15 plus, winning the DMV Kart Championship, as well as collecting numerous track records and several victories. He also won the ADAC Formula Masters sighting in Oschersleben the same year, resulting to him being appointed to the ADAC Sports Foundation Sponsorship programme. Pascal entered into the ADAC Formula Masters for 2010 and raced in the series for two years until the end of 2011.
Within 2011, Pascal secured 8 wins and 14 podiums in 28 races, giving him the Championship title. His impressive history at such a young age caught the eye of the ADAC Sports Foundation and the German Post Speed Academy – yet more brilliant contacts made.
2012 saw Pascal race in the famous Macau Grand Prix, finishing fifth – 3.4 seconds behind winner Antoniio Felix da Costa. Pascal then moved to the Formula 3 Euro Series in the same year, racing with Mücke Motorsport. Formula 3 treated Wehrlein well: ten podiums, a win at the Nurburgring, a pole position and a fastest lap. His ability meant he progressed to European Formula 3 in 2013.
Wehrlein managed to finish on the podium three times whilst racing in the European Formula 3 series, but never actually finished the season as he had caught the eye of the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Management. Wolff, Unger and Schattling could see the potential in Pascal, and so invited him to race in DTM with Mercedes’ secondary DTM team. He accepted and became the youngest ever DTM driver.
Wehrlein’s first season in DTM saw him claim three tenth-place finishes, and ended the season 18 points behind his team-mate (Juncadella) and 22nd place in the Championship Standings. However Wehrlein must have impressed as in 2014 he returned to DTM, but this time was promoted into the senior Mercedes-Benz team. Eight races into the season, at the Lausitzring, Wehrlein took his first victory in DTM and made him the youngest winner in DTM history. The day after this win he was announced at the Reserve driver for Mercedes AMG Formula One Team.
Recently, Pascal took part in the Race Of Champions, held in Barcelona, which saw him come second in the individual event to David Coulthard.
Wehrlein’s name has been thrown about in recent days due to his presence in the Pre-Season testing in Barcelona. Having organised a contract with Force India, the German was supposed to test their car for the Thursday and Saturday. He did manage to hop in a Force India but only for a morning as news broke that Lewis Hamilton was to retire from Thursday Practice early after an illness, and team mate Nico Rosberg was suffering from a trapped Nerve in his neck. Mercedes called Wehrlein back for the afternoon, and so he managed to spend his day racing in two different F1 cars – but managed to reach very similar times.