The Caterham F1 Team gave Roberto Merhi the chance to realise his dream and drive a Formula 1 car for the first time in the first free practice session ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, and the young Spaniard was immediately quicker than his Swedish team-mate Marcus Ericsson at Monza. Kamui Kobayashi took back his car from Merhi for the second free practice session, but both Caterham drivers finished at the back of the field once more.
Merhi had his first opportunity of his career to drive a Formula 1 car, and was happy with his performance and thanked the team for giving him his chance.
“It’s been an amazing day today,” insisted Merhi. “My dream finally came true and I drove a Formula 1 car out of the garage for the first time in my life. I’m very happy and it was an impressive experience – the car was pretty quick on the straights and the first outing was amazing when I went full on power, a very nice feeling.
“I’m satisfied with my performance today, to complete so many laps without a mistake was my real highlight of the day. I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for giving me the opportunity to drive the car on a Friday of a Grand Prix weekend.”
After sitting out the Belgian Grand Prix in favour of German Andre Lotterer, Kobayashi was back in the car for free practice two in Italy, and admitted he took some time to readjust to the car that had been upgraded since the last time he drove it in Hungary at the end of July.
“It was good to get back in the car again after my last outing in Budapest,” said Kobayashi. “I needed a bit of time to get used to the car again, as we had some updates in Spa and the car felt a bit different to start with. Now we just need to fine-tune the set-up and have a bit more time out on track tomorrow as today I only had a 90-minute practice.
“I am happy with today’s session; we were able to go through the planned programme. It’s good to be back and we are quite close to our rivals, so I am looking forward to a close battle this weekend.”
Ericsson was the slowest runner in both sessions, finishing behind Merhi by 0.244s in FP1 and Kobayashi by 0.097s in FP2, but believed a braking issue during the first session cost him the chance to beat his rookie team-mate.
“This morning started with a pretty decent run in FP1 and we got quite a good baseline set-up straight away, but unfortunately during the second run with the second set of tyres we had an issue with the brakes, so we couldn’t improve our lap times,” said Ericsson. “It was a shame, as it would’ve been good to continue the work during the rest of the session instead of losing some essential track time.
“We were able to sort out the braking problem for FP2, so we were able to build-up the pace again straight away. It was a good session for us – we completed plenty of laps and got a good feel from both tyre compounds. We also did a long run on the option tyre, so it was a decent afternoon. We now have a lot of data to look at and we need to work hard tonight. I think we can build on this for the rest of the weekend.”