Who is Roberto Merhi, the former F1 driver returning to Formula 2?

If you followed Formula 1 in the middle of the previous decade, your name will be known to you. Roberto Merhi (31) will make an unexpected return on the sidelines of the Austrian Grand Prix. The Spaniard will replace the injured Swiss Ralph Boschung for the Formula 2 meeting in Spielberg, with the Campos Racing team.

Since his short experience in Formula 1 in 2015, the former Manor team driver – a team that has now disappeared from the grid – has followed a very special trajectory. Between years in endurance, SuperGT and Formula 2, the CV of the Spanish driver is quite original. Fallen into oblivion, he made a surprise comeback in Formula in Austria. But then, who is Roberto Merhi?

  • Until F1, a straight race

Roberto Merhi began his single-seater career in 2006, at the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Championship. Gradually, the young Spaniard rose in rank, without being particularly extravagant. He won his first championship in 2011, in the Formula 3 Euro Series, with 11 victories in 27 races. In the same year, he also won the title in the International Formula 3 Trophy (which will be the only edition of this competition). Discovered by Mercedes, he joined the brand’s junior program with the star. Roberto Merhi participated in the DTM championship in 2012 and 2013. A failed experience, as the Valencian only got a podium in two years, with the 15th place as the best ranking of 2013.

This fruitless learning pushed Merhi back to the car in 2014, in Formula Renault 3.5. A successful comeback, as the Spaniard finished in 3rd place in the championship in his first season, just behind Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly. Discovered by Caterham, he became a test driver for the British-Malaysian team and made his first tests in F1. Announced instead of Kamui Kobayashi for the end of the 2014 season, he did not get a Super-License on time and was unable to participate in any races.

  • Merhi, last driver to combine F1 and the promotion formula in the same season

Salvation will come from the Marussia Manor team. After Caterham disappeared from the grid at the end of the 2014 season, Merhi regained an initial seat with the Anglo-Russian F1 team. But the Spaniard, already committed to the Pons Racing team in Formula Renault 3.5, has to juggle between the two competitions. A very strange fact in Formula 1, and which has not been seen since.

At Manor, the joy of the first F1 experience quickly becomes Calvary. With a very uncompetitive car, the CastellĂłn native of La Plana is limited to the last places. In Australia, a computer problem forced Manor to leave both cars in the garage. In Malaysia, the Spaniard did not qualify at 107% and finished 3 laps behind the winner.

At the same time, in FR3.5, Merhi is being noticed, but not for good reasons. In Austria, he braked sharply after the finish line, which surprised Nicholas Latifi, then struggling for a position. The Canadian violently hits the back of Pons Racing. Result: Merhi is excluded from the Austrian meeting and cannot take part in the other two races this weekend.

In Formula 1, the Way of the Cross continues. Lacking pace against teammate Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi was sacked by his team before the end of the season in favor of Alexander Rossi. 13 is the number of Grand Prix with which the Spaniard leaves the leading category of the engine.

  • After F1, a multitude of experiences

After his hasty departure from Formula 1, Roberto Mehri finds a seat in the resistance, in LM P2 with the team … Manor. Commitment throughout the 2016 season, he even participated for the first time in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but was forced to retire after 283 laps. His best ranking is still 3rd place in the LM P2 category at the 6 Hours of Spa.

The following year, he only completed one race at the WEC, at the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring. Against all odds, he made a pretty surprising comeback in a single-seater when the Formula 2 Campos Racing team called him up for the Barcelona event. A former F1 driver in Formula 2, let’s just say this is not uncommon.

Roberto Merhi will then take on the role of “freelancer” in Formula 2. After his time with Campos (0 points in 2 races), he joined the Rapax Team for the end of the season (16 points). In 2018 he runs for the MP Motorsport team, initially with a contract for the whole season. Finally, the Spaniard was replaced by Dorian Boccolacci in Belgium … before returning to the last two races of the season, at Yas Marina. He even took the podium at this last meeting.

The novelty game continues in 2019, with a first experience in the Asian Le Mans Series, where he finished in 3rd place. The former F1 driver then returned to the WEC, in LM P2, with Eurasia Motorsport, with another participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (18th overall, 14th in the category).

  • Asia before the return to Formula 2 by Merhi

After discovering races in Asia, Roberto Merhi went into exile in Australia and Japan to participate for 2 years in national competitions. And the pleasures vary: Supercars with the S5000 Tasman Series (2nd in 2021), GT World Challenge Australia and this year, SuperGT in Japan in the GT300 category. Disappeared from circulation in Europe, the Spaniard found refuge on the other side of the globe.

After four years without driving in a car, the former driver will find a wheel in Formula 2 in Austria. In the same circuit where he had lived the worst moment of his career, in 2015, will he be able to find the rhythm? At the age of 31, he will face the “generation of the 2000s”, that of a new era.

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