Toto Wolff would be “overwhelmed” to see Pascal Wehrlein make a return to Formula 1 in the future following confirmation of German driver’s exit from Mercedes’ motorsport programme at the end of the season.
Wehrlein moved into F1 in 2016 as the leading member of Mercedes’ junior programme after winning the DTM title the previous year, but was without a seat for 2018 after being replaced at Sauber by Charles Leclerc.
Unable to find an F1 seat, Wehrlein returned to DTM for the 2018 season, but will cut ties with Mercedes at the end of the year by mutual consent.
Mercedes also has junior drivers Esteban Ocon and George Russell on its books, prompting its motorsport boss Wolff to openly consider the future of its young driver programme.
“There are many reasons why we started the junior programme,” Wolff said. “One, that we felt that we wanted to help talent that didn’t have the means to make it through the ranks and Mercedes was helping Pascal from the very early days.
“I met him when he was 16 at the Norisring and we had a great journey together, from the ADAC to F3 then DTM, and we’ve invested time and money.
“The same with George Russell and Esteban Ocon but we are coming to a point that we haven’t got a junior team, and if you are lacking possibilities to place them then you need to either think of reducing your driver programme and releasing somebody or changing the strategy.
“We are at the crossroads at the moment. We are going to see how it plans out with George and with Esteban, and then decide how we continue.”
Wehrlein has been linked with one of the vacant seats at Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso for 2019, leading to Wolff being asked if it would be “heartbreaking” to see him race for “the doctor’s squad” next year, referring to Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko.
“Obviously we felt also together with Pascal that this was the best outcome for him. My opinion of him is still very high and it looked like that we could be possibly blocking his future career,” Wolff said.
“This is not what we wanted, and he also felt that he needed to do it on his own and give it a go on his own.
“I would be overwhelmed and happy if he on his own would find his way into Formula 1 or a professional racing career.”