Blog Roberto Merhi: Euroseries F3, Round 2

On the Wednesday before heading out to the Lausiztring, some friends came over to my house and we stayed in to watch the incredible Champions League Final. It was intense to live through Barça’s triumph. I had to catch a morning flight to Germany the next day, and arrived at the Berlin Tegel airport. When I finally made it to the track, at a little after five in the afternoon, there was still good weather and everything looked perfectly set for the weekend at this circuit which was to be completely new to me.

My first task on arrival was to walk the track with my engineer, studying the layout and discussing the set up of the car.  Later on I did a second tour of the circuit, this time running… and without my engineer!  Having spent a good part of the day sitting in an airplane, it was important to do a little exercise and stretch the muscles.

Friday began with a certain familiar hangover from Hockenheim; it was raining.  At the end of the first session the downpour ceased, and I rolled out for some laps in the dry. Sadly, they were to be all too few, and consequently we had problems with the brake balance. The system was not well, and not distributing the braking force correctly.  Overall, I lost a good part of the session without being able to run, not ideal on an unfamiliar circuit in which I really needed to put the laps in. I had also lost the possibility of conveying my sensations from the steering wheel to my engineer in order to advance our set-up work.

In the afternoon the track had completely dried out, but this time I had another problem with the car; it did not want to start. Again, I lost the best part of the session… things weren’t going anything like how I had envisaged they would do on Thursday. To summarize the first day: the car was not very close to the pace, and I had achieved precious little experience of the Lausitzring.

Merhi driving at Eurospeedway LautsitzringAt the end of the afternoon I decided to take the opportunity of having another walk of the track, in order to make a second analysis of the layout, braking points and set-up possibilities.  On this occasion I went with two of my companions from the team, Brazilian Pedro Enrique and his engineer Cease Branches. I also took my press officer José Ramón Galan, whom I carried under my arm to make sure he wasn’t hit by anything, and not repeat the business with the rearview mirror from Hockenheim..

Saturday was a long day.  Up at 05:30 in the morning, (more than early enough) for qualifying at eight o'clock. Just a bit early… but such is the schedule of the championship.  As has now become habitual, we were greeted with spots of water when we stepped outside. I am getting used to it now. Then more drama; as the time to go out on circuit arrived, my car failed to start! After losing part of the session, I was eventually able to take to the asphalt. Over the early laps my times were good enough for third, but the handling deteriorated thanks to an excess of oversteer, leaving me fourteenth on the grid. The weekend was going down the drain.

Nevertheless, qualifying, however important it may be, does not have the final word. You’ve still got to race.  And here is where my luck changed.  From the exit of the first chicane I advanced six positions, and was in eighth before the end of the first lap!  Later, I made a couple more positions, and in clean air set three consecutive fastest laps of the race. Although I closed in on a quintet of cars ahead, there was no time for any further improvement.

Thanks to this result, my prospects had changed hugely for Sunday. This time I started from third on the grid, which gave me a strong chance of repeating the podium from Hockenheim… and I took advantage of my opportunity to achieve a new best result of second position. This is racing. On Saturday at nine in the morning I had thought that I was sure to lose several positions in the championship standings, but twenty-four hours later I was departing from Lausitzring perched in second position in the classification and only two points adrift of leader Jules Bianchi.