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Wehrlein is in contention to race for Sauber next season after missing out on the chance to join Force India, it has emerged.
The German has enjoyed a strong debut campaign in 2016, scoring Manor’s first point in more than two years in July’s Austrian GP, but his career appeared to take a blow when Force India chose his team-mate, fellow Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon, to replace Nico Hulkenberg for 2017.
As reported by ESPN F1’s Nate Saunders, Wehrlein expressed his disappointment with Force India’s decision and had been expected to remain with Manor, who switched to Mercedes power units at the beginning of 2016, for a second season.
But Autosport (h/t Eurosport) has reported Wehrlein is now a candidate to join the Ferrari-affiliated Sauber outfit, who are set to beat Manor to 10th place in the constructors’ championship following Felipe Nasr’s ninth-place finish in the Brazilian GP.
After announcing Marcus Ericsson’s contract extension on Monday, Sauber were widely expected to retain Nasr, but complications between his personal sponsor, Banco do Brasil, and the Swiss outfit have seen the 24-year-old tumble down the team’s shortlist.
The same source suggested Mercedes boss Toto Wolff held discussions with Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn in Brazil, with Mercedes regarding Sauber as a “stronger and more-stable” option for Wehrlein in 2017.
Wehrlein may face competition from former Manor team-mate Rio Haryanto, who has gained support from several Asian companies as he attempts to return to the grid after competing in the first 12 grands prix of 2016.
But Esteban Gutierrez, who spent two seasons with Sauber in 2013 and ’14, is highly unlikely to return to the team after being dropped by Haas.
However, respected F1 journalist Joe Saward has revealed that while Wolff and Kaltenborn did hold discussions over the Brazilian GP weekend, their meeting was unproductive, with Mercedes unwilling to meet the asking price for Sauber to sign Wehrlein.
He suggested Wehrlein may be forced to spend 2017 as Mercedes’ reserve driver unless the Silver Arrows meet Sauber’s demands or find an individual prepared to purchase Manor and guarantee the team’s stability.
A separate Autosport (h/t Eurosport) article has revealed “an unnamed party” is holding advanced negotiations with Manor with a view to buying a majority stake.
Saward added that, as it stands, Gutierrez is likely to partner Wehrlein at Manor, with Haryanto joining Ericsson at Sauber.
Meanwhile, Nasr has suggested his point-scoring exploits in Brazil should enhance his prospects of remaining with Sauber for 2017, per Motorsport.com’s Elizalde.