Merhi quits FR3.5 to focus on F1 commitments

© Getty Images

Roberto Merhi has stepped down from his role with Pons Racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series in order to focus on his commitments with Manor Marussia F1 Team in Formula 1.

Merhi joined Manor for the 2015 F1 season on a race-by-race deal, and opted to balance this with Formula Renault 3.5 to remain competitive and fight for the championship.

The Spaniard missed Formula Renault 3.5 rounds in Monaco and Silverstone due to clashes with F1, and was excluded from the classification for both races in Austria for causing a collision after the checkered flag.

With three rounds remaining, Merhi has opted to call time on his Formula Renault 3.5 programme with Pons, making way for former GP2 driver Rene Binder.

“Pons Racing is proud to announce that Rene Binder will be driving one of the team’s Gibson-powered Dallara cars in the seventh round of the World Series Renault 3.5, scheduled for this weekend at the German Nurburgring track,” a statement from the team read.

“The 23-year-old Austrian has been a consistent feature in the GP2 Series since the mid part of the 2012 season, while he also captured great results in the German Formula 3 series in the past.

“Binder is set to replace Spaniard Roberto Merhi, who decided to stop his Formula Renault 3.5 program due to the clashing commitments in the Formula One World Championship.”

Of the three remaining rounds, the round at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit clashed with the Japanese Grand Prix, but Merhi would have been available to race at the Nurburgring and in Jerez.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.