Gerhard Berger has suggested Mercedes to replace outgoing world champion Nico Rosberg with its academy driver Pascal Wehrlein.
Days after clinching the title, Rosberg shockingly announced plans to retire from Formula 1 with immediate effect, leaving Mercedes in a frantic search for a replacement.
Valtteri Bottas, who has amassed nine podium finishes in F1 so far, has emerged as the prime candidate to partner Lewis Hamilton, with Wehrlein seemingly overlooked by Mercedes.
But Berger, a veteran of 210 grands prix, believes Mercedes should put faith in the potential shown by Wehrlein, rather than being lured away by the proven talent of Bottas.
"I would have taken Wehrlein to underline my own young driver program,’’ Berger told Auto Motor und Sport.
“Wehrlein always left a convincing impression in this program. You will only see how good he really is when you put him in a top car. In comparison to Bottas Wehrlein is a risk for sure.
“Therefore, maybe the clever solution is not the one that springs to mind first and the right. I hold Bottas in high esteem. He's quick, a good team player, a nice person and he has earned the chance to prove himself.
“On the other hand he didn't destroy Massa enough for us to be saying: He's the right choice."
Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel’s respective contracts with McLaren and Ferrari expire at the end of 2017. Like many others, Berger shares the vision that Mercedes must hire an interim replacement for one-year to keep its options open for 2018.
“Mercedes is anyway required to consider the near future, because even Hamilton's contract expires sometime soon. Mercedes now needs an interim solution with a port for 2018,’’ he said.
Wehrlein was also snubbed by Force India with the Silverstone-based manufacturer opting for his Manor teammate Esteban Ocon to partner Sergio Perez.
by Rachit Thukral