Merhi: Bianchi “the best driver that I raced against”

Leave a comment

Roberto Merhi has paid tribute to Jules Bianchi ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, calling him “the best driver I raced against”.

Bianchi died on Friday night nine months on from his accident at the Japanese Grand Prix in which he sustained severe head injuries.

In Thursday’s press conference ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the six drivers present were asked to share their favorite memory of Bianchi.

Merhi spoke about his first meeting with Bianchi, and how even back in go karts he had the makings of a very special driver.

“The first time I met Jules was in 2002 in a karting race,” Merhi said. “It was a race in Spain and he was coming from France and normally when you are that young to come to a track that you don’t know, in Spain, that you have never raced, it’s very hard to be quick.

“I remember I was really surprised to see that guy that was really quick immediately on that track. He really impressed everybody. After that I followed him really closely. He was always the driver – the reference. He was all the time the quickest and doing really great things.

“Obviously, when I jumped into Formula Renault in 2007 we did a few races together because he also jumped in 2007 to Formula Renault and again he won straight away; his first year in the championship. It was pretty incredible, no?

“For me he was the biggest talent I saw in motorsport. Also, when I raced, back in 2009, with an F3, we were fighting against him because he was the man to beat that year and he won the championship with so many good drivers on the track and he won it really easy; just winning so many races.

“I think that shows how good he was and for me it’s, to be honest, really a shame that he was not able to really show in an F1 car what he was able to do.

“Because I think he was the best driver that I raced against.”

Felipe Massa paid tribute to Bianchi by calling him the best go-karter he had ever seen, and that his favorite memory came when racing with the Frenchman in a go-karting race.

“For me he was a fantastic boy, very nice, very humble and an amazing driver,” Massa said. “Unfortunately in Formula One he didn’t have the opportunity to race in a competitive car; to show his talent.

“He showed us anyway by finishing in the points in Monaco with a car he was driving which everybody knows was like… it was an amazing thing he did in that race.

“But for me the experience I had with Jules was also that we did a lot of go-karting together, even in Brazil, and in my experience he was the best go-kart driver I saw.

“I’m sure he is in a good place, racing, enjoying and definitely looking here to all of us, from whatever place he is, I don’t know, but I think he was an amazing boy and a fantastic driver that I really hope the best for his family as well.”

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.