SPANISH STAR MERHI TAKES HOCKENHEIM PODIUM ON MANOR DEBUT Manor Motorsport started the 2009 Formula 3 Euroseries season in great style at Hockenheim in Germany over the weekend, 16th/17th May, with Spanish driver Roberto Merhi taking a superb ...
SPANISH STAR MERHI TAKES HOCKENHEIM PODIUM ON MANOR DEBUT
Manor Motorsport started the 2009 Formula 3 Euroseries season in great style at Hockenheim in Germany over the weekend, 16th/17th May, with Spanish driver Roberto Merhi taking a superb second place finish during the opening round of the campaign for the Dinnington based squad.
Marking an incredible start to his maiden season in the world's premier F3 championship, the 18-year-old began the weekend impressively with timesheet topping performances in testing and then by running right at the front in qualifying on Saturday.
Lying in second position with just one lap remaining in the session, Merhi slipped to fourth right at the end -- his best lap a time of1m34.226 seconds (174.754 km/h) -- due to the qualifying period being something of a lottery with the track drying from earlier rain.
At the start of round one, Merhi moved into third place immediately and then managed to get second from former Manor driver Sam Bird on the opening lap as well. From that point on the order never changed, the series newcomer enjoying a fantastic debut.
Brazilian team-mates Pedro Enrique and Cesar Ramos, who qualified 21st and 23rd respectively, finished in 20th and 23rd positions although the latter was three laps down after a stall at the start of the season curtain-raiser.
In Sunday's race, Merhi ran a strong eighth for the majority of the 24-lap encounter but slipped to 13th after being served with a drive-through penalty for running wide over a red line at a restricted part of the track. He did fight back well though into the top 10.
Enrique raced well to climb from 19th on the grid to 14th place at the finish while Ramos wasn't able to even complete a lap when he was tagged and turned around by another car at the start, spinning him into the path of oncoming traffic and resulting in an instant retirement.
Following the first two rounds of the season in Germany, Manor Motorsport is fourth in the team standings, nine points off the lead. In the driver standings, Merhi lies third overall after just two races on eight points, only four shy of championship leader Stefano Coletti.
Looking back on the opening event of the 2009 season, Manor Motorsport team owner John Booth said: "Qualifying was a bit of lottery, Roberto was second fastest with enough time on the clock for one more lap but he just missed out on a front row with other drivers managing to go a bit quicker as the track dried.
"The first race was all a bit messy at the start, we had two re-starts but Roberto did a great job to get up to second and by the end he was right up with Coletti. In Sunday's race, he was given a penalty but fought back well into the top 10."
Booth added: "Pedro did a very good job to climb up to 14th place in the second race but Cesar didn't even have chance to get a lap under his belt when he was turned around on the grid by another car -- it was an instant retirement unfortunately. We've certainly got plenty to build on and, all in all, it wasn't a bad weekend."
Rounds three and four of the 2009 Formula 3 Euroseries will take place a fortnight from now, 30th/31st May, at Eurospeedway Lausitz in Germany.
Highlights of the first two rounds of the season, meanwhile, should be available to watch on the official Formula 3 Euroseries website www.f3euroseries.com