The Formula Renault 3.5 Series weekend at the Nurburgring confirmed that Spaniard Roberto Merhi is one of the stars of 2014 so far. The Zeta Corse driver took his second win of the season on Sunday after a second place on Saturday to move into second place in the championship with three race weekends to come.
After topping the times on Friday during the collective tests, Merhi qualified fourth on the grid for the opening race of the weekend, and made a good start to move ahead of the Fortec Motorsport machine of Sergey Sirotkin into third at the start. He held position and was looking set for third when Sirotkin’s team-mate Oliver Rowland slowed as he suffered with a gearbox issue that saw Merhi move into second place. As the rain came down late in the race, he was closing hand over fist to the race leader Carlos Sainz Jr, but ran out of time and laps before getting the opportunity to pass the DAMS driver.
“The race changed dramatically from one lap to another,” said Merhi on his official website. “Thanks to the rain arriving I went from defending third position hard to being second and to also I could have to fight for the win with one or two more laps.
“Anyway I’m very happy with the overall result, it’s the third podium of the season and it confirms the step ahead I’ve made with Zeta Corse.”
When everything reset on Sunday, a wet Nurburgring greeted the drivers, and after taking his maiden pole position in Moscow two weekends back, Merhi took his second pole, and then led every lap to take his second victory, keeping the Lotus of Matthieu Vaxiviere at arms length for the entirety, while looking like he was holding some pace in reserve.
“Everything has been perfect,” said Merhi on Sunday. “In qualifying I had the help of the rain, as on a wet track I always feel very comfortable, and that helped to get a very important pole. In the race, despite having a rival very close I never felt at any moment that the win was in danger as I was running very calmly. And, last but not least, from the three drivers that were ahead of me in the championship, Sainz, Rowland and Gasly, the first two didn’t score and the third just got an eighth place so I was able to recover a lot of points and get back in the fight for the title.
“I know that the first position is still quite far away and that it will be very hard to get there, but I’m fighting with that target in mind as long as I still have any mathematical chance. I want to thank to Zeta Corse for the work they are carrying out, today they’ve done a perfect job in the pit stop and throughout the whole weekend.”
Team-mate Roman Mavlanov struggled for pace around the Nurburgring, qualifying nineteenth for the opening race and finishing seventeenth. For race two, he had his best qualifying of the season in eleventh, but despite missing the carnage at the start, the Russian could still not score his first points of the season, falling and finishing behind the debutant drivers of Cameron Twynham and Alfonso Celis Jr in thirteenth.
Merhi’s excellent weekend in Germany has brought him right into contention in the championship, moving himself into second place behind Sainz, with Merhi on 118 points to Sainz’s 157. The summer break could be just coming at the wrong time for the Zeta Corse driver. Momentum is on his side… now there are two months to wait for the next round.