Roberto Merhi ready for first F1 outing, but admits it will be a challenge

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Roberto Merhi is feeling excited ahead of his first Formula 1 outing during practice for the Italian Grand Prix tomorrow, but admits that he faces a big challenge to get to grips with the car at the sport’s most demanding circuit.

Monza is the fastest track on the calendar, requiring low downforce and skinny wings. It is something of an anomaly in terms of setup, making it a challenge for all of the teams and rivers.

Merhi, pictured in blue, has been racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this season, but will replace Kamui Kobayashi for practice on Friday in Italy. Although he is excited, he admits that he faces a big challenge.

“I’m quite excited,” Merhi told journalists at Monza. “The first time is in free practice, and it’s going to be hard but let’s see how it goes.

“Tomorrow is a hard situation. You need to prove that you are ready to race and you need to try to build up your confidence on the car, but you have just one hour and a half in practice and two sets of new tires.

“You need to show that you have consistent lap times, that you can do steps during your free practice session. It’s important to give good feedback to the team so they know how the car is behaving. I think this is a mandatory thing for tomorrow.”

Merhi is thought to be in the frame to replace Kobayashi for the Singapore Grand Prix if he can obtain his FIA superlicense in the meantime. However, the Spaniard is taking things one step at a time.

“I don’t know yet,” he said when asked if he would be racing in Singapore. “At the moment, the idea is to do the free practice one to see how it goes, to see how much I can learn from the car and from everyone.

“And then we will see what is going on and what is the next target. But Singapore is quite a tough place to do a race!”

Merhi will become the fourth driver to race for Caterham in 2014, with Andre Lotterer also replacing Kobayashi for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.