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Manor sign Mercedes' Wehrlein

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 10-02-2016 skysports.com

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Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein has been named as Manor's first race driver for the 2016 season. 

The 21-year-old German has served as understudy to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes since 2014 and last year became the youngest ever champion in DTM, Germany's leading touring car series.

Manor had been the only team on the grid not to name either of their drivers for the new season, but with less than two weeks until testing begins in Spain, the Banbury-based outfit have finally announced the arrival of Wehrlein.

The youngster had been linked to a race seat at the team ever since they secured the coup of Mercedes engines for 2016. Wehrlein will be the second rookie on the grid after Renault's Jolyon Palmer, and the fourth German driver.

"Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career - I'm very pleased to be here," said Wehrlein.

"It's a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it's my first F1 season my aim is to help [owner] Stephen [Fitzpatrick] and the guys achieve their goals.

"It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It's going to be good fun."

Wehrlein competed seven test days last season, four for Mercedes and three for Force India, having first driven an F1 car in late 2014. 

"A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto [Wolff], who have guided my career thus far and made this opportunity possible," he added. "Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it's down to me to grab the moment and perform on track."

Manor owner Stephen Fitzpatrick described the young German as a "sharp driver with a very promising future" and believes "Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season".

The team are yet to announce who will fill the second seat, the only one still open on the 2016 grid.

Two of their race drivers from last season, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens, are thought to be in contention along with Indonesian Rio Haryanto.

Rossi competed in five of the final seven races for Manor in 2015 and told Sky Sports last week "things are looking positive" in his attempts to secure a full-time drive.

Manor enter a new era in 2016 following the departures of long-time lieutenants John Booth and Graeme Lowdon.

In addition to the arrival of Mercedes' latest engines, the team have signed F1 stalwarts Dave Ryan, Nikolas Tombazis and Pat Fry as they aim to move away from the back of the grid.

Manor have confirmed their 2015 car will be called the MRT05 and make its debut at the opening Barcelona test on February 22-25.

Meanwhile, Mercedes now have two of their young drivers in roles at other teams after France's Esteban Ocon was loaned to Renault to serve as reserve driver. 

2016 driver line-ups

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico RosbergFerrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi RaikkonenWilliams: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe MassaRed Bull: Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil KvyatForce India: Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio PerezRenault: Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon PalmerToro Rosso: Max Verstappen and Carlos SainzSauber: Felipe Nasr and Marcus EricssonMcLaren: Fernando Alonso and Jenson ButtonManor: Pascal Wehrlein and TBCHaas: Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez

The first Barcelona test starts on Monday February 22 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days of both Barcelona tests while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.

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