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Merhi quits FR3.5 to focus on F1 commitments

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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.

Robert Wickens shares more positive strides toward recovery in new video

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Robert Wickens has made massive steps since sustaining a spinal cord injury in an Aug. 19, 2018 crash at Pocono Raceway.

Since the accident, Wickens publicly has shared his recovery, often uploading videos of his physical rehabilitation on Twitter.

In his most recent update on Wednesday, Wickens shared a video of him walking on a treadmill. Fellow NTT IndyCar Series competitor Tony Kannan, who competes in triathlons during his spare time, also was visible running on the treadmill behind Wickens.

“When I am @TonyKannan [sic] age, I hope to run as fast as him…” Wickens tweeted. “Today was a good day!”

Wickens, who will turn 31 on March 13, first made his return to the IndyCar paddock in last year’s season opener in St. Petersburg. Since then, he’s made a return to the driver’s seat, piloting a specialized Acura NSX prior to the start of last year’s IndyCar race in his hometown of Toronto.

In September, Wickens fulfilled a vow to his wife Karli, by standing with her during their wedding. The new husband and wife also danced together during their reception.

Should Wickens fully recover to resume racing, Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt has stated that the team’s No. 6 entry will be available for him to drive. Wickens continues to remain as a “driver coach and consultant” for the team.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter