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Blog Roberto Merhi: Euroseries F3, Round 3

I arrived at the third round of the F3 Euroseries at the Norisring, a circuit completely new to me, with a keen desire to get out there and begin running. As I was already at the track on Thursday, I took time for my usual lap walk with the engineers and team personnel.  On first glance I could already sense that the circuit was a little special.  After our tour we examined last year’s data acquisition to broaden our understanding of the layout.  This was followed by a team dinner at a restaurant before heading to the hotel and sleep.

The morning brought sunshine, putting us in good stead for our planned test programme. I took to the track and found myself quickly able to adapt to its demands. At the beginning of free practice I was therefore third fastest, even so I noted some traction problems and a lack of grip in slow corners – on this, a track with many slow corners and where traction was at a premium. By the time of qualifying in the afternoon, things had changed radically. It had begun to rain heavily, and no one had any alternative other than to run a wet weather set-up.

Over the early laps, with the track at its wettest, I set the fastest time. But as the rain ceased, and the circuit dried, so the handling deteriorated. A return of the practice traction difficulties, and oversteer similar to that experienced at the Lausitzring pinned me to 12th place. This did not help paint a good picture for my race prospects, so in our mid-afternoon technical briefing I put in a request to my engineers for some possible changes in order to improve the single-seater’s competitiveness… and they worked! In the first race I managed to finish fifth. The best thing about the result was that it implied there was room for further improvement on Sunday, opening up the possibility of a podium.

Before the second race, my engineer wanted to test some things with the set-up that he and I were not in total agreement on.  With that done, I set off for Sunday’s start with every intention of winning. The race began extremely well and I made a very good get-away to leap into second.  I attacked the leader, Sam Bird, to the maximum and eventually found a way through. But then the Safety Car took to the track and regrouped everyone, causing me to lose the advantage that I had fought to build up.

Once the tyres had warmed up again after the restart, the car behaved unpredictably, and I was faced with more traction problems and a lack of mechanical grip.  With the car in this condition I was able to run in fourth place, until a second Safety Car bunched everyone up again. It was then that the car behind struck a blow to my rear wheel in Turn 1. On the following corner, as I applied the brakes, the rear became extremely unstable and I almost lost control of the back of the car. I lost many places through running wide and I wound up finishing eighth.  On looking over the car after the race, I could finally take in the damage that had been suffered. I saw that that, on average, my rear rubber was not making contact with the ground at all. It just wasn’t worn… our set up had been completely out.

So in short, it was not a good meeting. I can’t say anything else.  I expect to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth at Zandvoort, a circuit that I already know from competing at the Master F3 race. I believe that I will have the possibility to achieve there the first victory that has not been coming for various reasons. Of course, I when it comes I will dedicate it to you, my supporters. Take care.