Pascal Wehrlein reaches deal with Sauber for 2017 - report

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Mercedes reserve Pascal Wehrlein has agreed a deal to drive with Sauber for 2017 as the final pieces of the driver market continue to fall into place.

Given his background with the team, Wehrlein was the early favourite to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, though Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has emerged as the frontrunner in recent weeks. Wehrlein had been linked to Sauber at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in late November last year, but those talks were put on hold when Rosberg revealed his plans to walk away from F1.

According to Motorsport.com, Wehrlein and Sauber have now reached an agreement for the upcoming season, with a deal expected to be finalised in the coming days. It is believed Mercedes were wary of promoting Wehrlein, who remains highly rated by the team, into what is likely to be a championship-contending car with just 21 races of experience with Manor to his name.

The report makes it look all but certain Bottas is due to sign for Mercedes, something which looked likely as soon as former teammate Felipe Massa agreed to undo his decision to retire and return to Williams for the new campaign. Bottas also visited the Mercedes factory before Christmas for a seat fitting and to meet the engineers he will work with this year.

The Bottas, Wehrlein and Massa confirmations would leave Manor as the only team with vacancies. The team is currently involved in takeover talks with potential investors and has been linked with former Sauber and Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez for the upcoming campaign.