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Wehrlein ‘as fast as Bottas’ – Lauda

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Only his lack of experience meant Pascal Wehrlein was overlooked for the top Mercedes cockpit in 2017.

That is the claim of team chairman Niki Lauda, amid criticism that the fact Mercedes signed Valtteri Bottas demonstrated a lack of faith in the marque’s top junior, 22-year-old Wehrlein.

“With Wehrlein it was only about his inexperience,” the F1 legend told Auto Bild. “And the pressure can also lead to errors, like Verstappen in Monte Carlo.

“This is not a criticism, it’s just normal for very young drivers,” Lauda said. “So the decision was made for Bottas because he’s as fast as Wehrlein, but he has the experience.”

Some, meanwhile, have suggested that Mercedes should actually have signed up a star name to be Lewis Hamilton’s new teammate, replacing retiring champion Nico Rosberg.

“No, it doesn’t matter,” Lauda said. “Because the moment Bottas has success with Mercedes, then he is known.”

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