Wehrlein still eyeing prime Mercedes seat

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Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein believes his long-term Formula 1 ambitions would be better served if he remained with Manor next season.

The 21-year-old is fully aware that the small British team where he is currently serving his apprenticeship is his only viable option for 2017, although racing at the tail end of the field this year has not been easy to endure for the former DTM champ.

"At first it was quite a shock," Wehrlein explained to Germany's Sport Bild.

"But you get used to it. As the DTM champion I was probably not prepared for expecting no higher than 20th place."

The German owed his maiden F1 season to Mercedes which bankrolled Wehrlein's seat at Manor through its supply of Mercedes engines to the minnow outfit.

And his allegiance to the German manufacturer remains intact as he aspires to eventually graduate to its 'A' team.

"But I also know that Lewis and Nico's contracts expire at the end of 2018. There is no plan, except to always show my performance.

"If I can come forward after, for example, two years with Manor, that would be very good because I have overcome a major challenge in helping the team.

"Similarly, if I change into another team with Mercedes' support I could get a more experienced teammate and if I deliver, I have a good chance of getting a Mercedes seat."

For now, Wehrlein is pitted at Manor against the team's latest arrival and another Mercedes pupil , Esteban Ocon.

But the German does not consider the Frenchman as direct competition for a prime Mercedes seat, at least not for now.

"It's not a direct shootout, because there are no places available at Mercedes next year. But yes, I'm sure Mercedes wants to directly compare us.

"In direct comparison, Esteban seems not better than me so far, and he is generally rated really highly. Which is of course good for me."

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