Sauber has reached agreement for Pascal Wehrlein to line up alongside Marcus Ericsson this year, sources have revealed, paving the way for Valtteri Bottas to take the vacant seat at Mercedes.
After weeks of speculation about who would replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes – with Wehrlein and Bottas the clear favourites from the start – it appears that the final steps are now being made to get everything signed off formally.
Although Wehrlein had been a contender for the Mercedes seat, it is understood that his lack of experience meant the team felt he was too much or a risk to be promoted to its works team just yet – especially going up against a driver as tough as Lewis Hamilton.
According to sources with good knowledge of the situation, Mercedes has instead now agreed terms with Sauber for it to take its junior driver Wehrlein for 2017. The final details of the contract are still to be finalised, but that should be done in the next few days.
Mercedes has settled on landing Bottas – whose exit from Williams has now been assured, with Felipe Massa having agreed to delay his retirement by another season to ensure that the Grove-based team has an experienced driver on hand alongside rookie Lance Stroll.
The announcements of Bottas, Wehrlein and Massa may well be co-ordinated to ensure that no teams risks being left in an awkward position.
The confirmation of the plans for Mercedes, Sauber and Williams means that the only vacancies left on the grid are now at Manor, which is currently in takeover talks with interested investors.
Esteban Gutierrez is a front-runner for one of the seats, while Felipe Nasr and Rio Haryanto have also been linked with the outfit.
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