German rookie Wehrlein joins F1 team Manor

London (AFP) –


German driver Pascal Wehrlein will make his Formula One debut in 2016 after taking the first of two vacant seats at the Manor team.

The 21-year-old is the reigning DTM German Touring Car champion and was Mercedes' test driver last season.

Wehrlein has signed a one-year deal with Manor, who have recently started an engine partnership with Mercedes.

The other seat is still up for grabs with Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens, who both raced for Manor Marussia last season, still in with chances of being offered new deals.

Stephen Fitzpatrick bought the team when it was in dire straits a year ago, and has started a major rebuilding job.

"Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future. Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard," Fitzpatrick said.

"We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions. Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India.

"Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

Wehrlein will take part in both pre-season tests, the first of which starts in Barcelona on February 22.

Previously known as Marussia, the team have only won F1 points in one race, the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix where the late Jules Bianchi finished ninth.

But Wehrlein is confident of helping the team become more competitive.

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

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

The 2016 season gets underway in Melbourne on March 20.