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.”