Pascal Wehrlein was “really surprised” to learn of Mercedes’ decision to quit DTM, believing it cuts off an important route for young drivers to reach Formula 1 that he took back in 2015.

Wehrlein swapped single-seaters for tin-tops in 2013, joining Mercedes’ DTM effort before going on to win the title two years later.

Wehrlein was able to move into F1 off the back of his championship win, signing for Manor last year, and is currently racing with Sauber.

Mercedes announced at the end of last month that it would be closing its DTM programme at the end of the 2018 season in order to divert resources to Formula E, which it will enter the following year.

“I was really surprised about it. I heard about it on Monday, just before they went public with it,” Wehrlein said of the announcement.

“I’m always in contact with the guys from DTM after the nice time we had together. For them it’s of course not an easy time so they have a lot of time now, one-and-a-half years which seems to be a lot in situations like this because it could have been just before the last race, someone could have said ‘we’re stopping with DTM, that’s your last race’.

“At least they have one-and-a-half years, and I hope the guys from there don’t lose their job and so on and they can move forward. But that’s how it is. The decision is made.”

Wehrlein feels it will see Mercedes shift its approach to helping junior drivers up the ranks, perhaps taking a more traditional route on the single-seater ladder.

“Definitely with Mercedes you had the chance to go into F1 [from DTM],” Wehrlein said. “DTM is not the normal way, you start in Formula 4, Formula 3, Formula 2, however, that’s the normal way.

“Now I can just tell you about my case, it was not possible for me to drive GP2. I didn’t have the budget of 1.5 million. I had to decide what can I do after Formula 3, and for me it was clear that there was an offer from Mercedes that I could drive DTM, so I’m getting paid and I don’t have to spend a crazy amount of money for another year of Formula 3 or something like this, and GP2 was not possible.

“For me the only option was DTM, and I was really happy about that chance. I always knew that if I was doing a good job and if I was successful winning and so on, there could be still a chance to drive in F1.

“Luckily I won DTM and now I’m in F1. But I think this is only possible with Mercedes.

“Now maybe without DTM they will put their drivers in Formula 3, GP3 and F2.”