Ex-F1 racer Pascal Wehrlein set for Ferrari simulator role

Pascal Wehrlein is set to undertake simulator duties with Ferrari in Formula 1 this season, in the wake of his departure from rivals Mercedes.

Wehrlein started 39 Grands Prix for Manor and Sauber across 2016/17 respectively, taking a best finish of eighth, and was a long-term member of Mercedes’ junior scheme until the end of last year.

Ferrari last season heavily relied on reserve Antonio Giovinazzi and development driver Daniil Kvyat to carry out simulator running at Grand Prix weekends.

Giovinazzi in particular received credit for work undertaken after Friday practice sessions and contributed to set-up work that turned around Sebastian Vettel’s fortunes in Canada, facilitating the German's drive from pole position to victory.

But both Giovinazzi and Kvyat secured full-time Formula 1 seats for 2019 at Sauber and Toro Rosso respectively, leaving junior racer Antonio Fuoco as Ferrari’s most experienced simulator driver.

Wehrlein is therefore set to fill a key role at Ferrari for 2019 and will provide useful back-up to Vettel and new team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes has reserve Esteban Ocon, ex-Sauber/Haas racer Esteban Gutierrez and former McLaren driver and current HWA Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne it can call upon for simulator duties.

Ex-Toro Rosso racer Sebastien Buemi, junior Daniel Ticktum and sportscar driver Jake Dennis carry out the role for fellow front-runners Red Bull.

Wehrlein is to make his Formula E debut in Morocco this weekend after signing a deal to race for Indian marque Mahindra.

His pre-existing Mercedes contract meant he was unable to participate in the opening event in Saudi Arabia last month, but his ties to the German giants expired on December 31.

Wehrlein had been backed by Mercedes since 2013, winning the DTM crown for the manufacturer in 2015, as well as undertaking extensive test and simulator duties throughout his six-year stay.

He finished eighth in last year’s DTM standings, having returned to the category after losing his Sauber Formula 1 drive to Leclerc.