After cutting the gap in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship in the rounds in Russia, Germany and Hungary, Roberto Merhi could not continue his momentum at Paul Ricard, and the Zeta Corse driver was left to pick up the pieces as his rival for the title Carlos Sainz Jr took a dominant double victory in France.
Merhi started fourth but dropped to fifth in Saturday’s opening race of the weekend, and felt it was a hammer blow to his title aspirations with DAMS driver Sainz taking the win.
“Today I lost chances to fight for the title, since we do not have the car right yet,” said Merhi on his own website after his race on Saturday. “With the sun and the track perfect, we still need just a little bit more to be able to be as competitive as we demonstrated in the wet, and to expect it to rain for the third consecutive weekend was much to ask for.
“However, while there is still a mathematical chance to win I will continue fighting, and at the moment the next objective is to try to continue to improve the car. I must make certain not to lose concentration and to fight until the last lap of the last race at Jerez.”
On Sunday, Merhi could only finish fourth, and coupled with Sainz’s second win of the weekend, means that he sits forty-four points behind his fellow Spaniard with only fifty still available. He had a good battle with ISR Racing driver Jazeman Jaafar that he ultimately won, but was disappointed to see Oliver Rowland of Fortec Motorsports jump ahead of him during the pit stop cycle.
“This was not our weekend and today proved it, I am happy with my race, I believe that I gave everything, and have even finished one or two positions higher than I thought I could,” said Merhi. “I have had an intense battle with Jaafar, I made two good passes, but it was impossible to reclaim the place that I lost to Rowland at the pit stop, a pity, because to have finished the weekend with a podium would have been good.”
With two races to go, Merhi admits that second place is his main target now in the championship with Sainz so far ahead, with only eleven points separating him from Pierre Gasly of Arden Motorsport.
“The championship will now be an uphill struggle with a forty-four point gap and just fifty left it is now practically impossible,” insisted Merhi. “I have an eleven point advantage over third position and to finish the season as runner-up, given to the conditions in which I began the year, is more than I could have imagined. I hope at Jerez to return to the first step of the podium and to finish the season the on a high.”