Stevens, Merhi making first Russian Grand Prix starts for Manor

AP
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Manor’s inaugural visit to Sochi for the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, then known as Marussia, was a challenging one.

The team had only one entry in the race, Max Chilton. Meanwhile the team’s second car was withdrawn as a tribute to Jules Bianchi, who was suffering from eventually fatal injuries he received in the previous race in Japan. Alexander Rossi had been named as a replacement before the car was withdrawn.

Chilton wound up being the first car out of the race, finishing 21st after dropping out after nine laps for suspension issues.

It was also the team’s final start prior going into administration in the offseason, before it was saved prior to the start of this year and renamed as Manor.

The team returns to Sochi this weekend ready to field two cars, each driven by new drivers, Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens, the latter having served as a reserve driver in 2014.

“The debut race in Sochi last year was something of a voyage into the unknown for all of the teams,” said team principal John Booth.

“For us, it was an even greater challenge, given our difficult circumstances. For me personally, this will be my first visit, so, in many ways, we approach the race afresh this weekend.”

Sochi represents the first of Merhi’s last two races with Marussia this year. The Spaniard has competed in 12 of the first 14 races, and has a best finish of 12th.

“I can’t wait to be back in the car in Sochi this weekend. It’s the first time I have raced here, but last year I took part in the FP1 session, so I have some understanding of the circuit characteristics and this will be helpful for me after a couple of races out of the car,” Merhi said in a release.

“I’ve continued to work very closely with the team during track sessions and engineering meetings, so I have a very good appreciation of the work we have completed and I’m eager to get stuck into the program and to make the most of my two races, in Sochi and Abu Dhabi.”

Stevens, who finished 19th in Japan, is still looking for his first finish higher than 13th. He has finished 15th twice in the last three events.

“I was here last year in my role as reserve driver, so I walked the track and observed the task of getting to grips with it from afar,” Stevens said in a release. “It’s quite useful having two different drivers as a benchmark this past few races, and of course it is Roberto back in the other seat for this race, rather than Alex (Rossi).’

The Russian Grand Prix begins Sunday at 7 am ET on NBCSN.