Roberto Merhi dominates Formula Renault 3.5 race in Hungary

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Caterham reserve driver Roberto Merhi has strengthened his case for a full-time race seat with the beleaguered F1 team by winning today’s Formula Renault 3.5 race at the Hungaroring in emphatic fashion.

The Spaniard enjoyed his first run out in a Formula 1 car in practice for the Italian Grand Prix, setting an impressive initial pace and finishing ahead of full-time driver Marcus Ericsson.

He was not able to make his grand prix debut at Monza as he had not completed the required running to obtain a super licence. However, he is thought to be in the frame to race in Singapore next weekend in place of Kamui Kobayashi.

In Hungary today, Merhi started the race from seventh place on the grid, only to catapult himself into second place by the end of lap one in damp conditions. He then enjoyed a battle with Fortec’s Oliver Rowland before passing (pictured) and pulling away. At the flag, his advantage was almost half a minute.

“We were not able to run to our potential in qualifying due to a red flag,” Merhi explained. “Happily, we made up for that at the start. There was a lot of water spray behind Oliver and I wasn’t able to see. He then made a small mistake that allowed me to get by.

“Afterwards, I was able to pull away while taking care of my tyres because this track is very demanding when it comes to tire wear, especially in drying conditions.”

Merhi’s win has also brought him back into the hunt for the Formula Renault 3.5 championship as points leader Carlos Sainz Jr. was forced to settle for fourth place after a poor qualifying result. The gap at the top now stands at 26 points with five races remaining, and both will be hoping to follow in McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen’s footsteps by lifting the championship at the end of the year.

Even if he does join Caterham in a full-time role until the end of the season, Merhi is likely to keep up his FR3.5 commitments as he looks to establish himself as a serious candidate for an F1 seat in 2015.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.