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Blog Roberto Merhi: Euroseries F3, Round 1

RacingInside.com secured a deal with the young Spanish talent Roberto Merhi. From now on, Merhi will write a blog about his races and life in motorsports. In this first blog, Merhi will look back to the first weekend of the Euroseries Formula 3. The young hotshot secured some good results and could be a contender for the championship.
So finally it arrived! With the dawn of the first round of the F3 Euroseries I was instilled with a tremendous desire to prove that I can compete at the front.

The weather at Hockenheim on Thursday at was very changeable, so I spent time with my engineer looking through data acquisition for different kinds of conditions, as well as discussing a little the strategy for Friday and our overall approach to the weekend.

By the time the first free practice session rolled around on Friday, I was impatient to jump in the car and get going. My main objective was to extract the maximum possible from it and to learn the circuit, but unfortunately we started out with a wet track. By the end of the session things had finally started to dry out, and on a more or less barren circuit I put in a pair of quick laps to set the fastest time. I really, sincerely, wasn’t expecting that…it was the first time that I had driven at Hockenheim in the dry! As you can imagine, I was delighted.

In the afternoon we completed the second session. It went well, but not quite to the same degree as the earlier one. The problem was that the racing line, just as in the morning, dried out as the session progressed. I wasn’t able to manage a time over the final laps when the track conditions were at their quickest, and was left with the seventh fastest time overall.

Roberto Merhi at HockenheimSaturday: qualifying. The moment of truth had arrived, with everyone set to push to 110%. The weather was just as it had been on Friday, with a little damp in the first few minutes of qualifying. I went out on my first set of rubber to adapt to the conditions, but without nearing the limit. After pitting for my second set of rubber, I decided to throw myself in deep and push. Each completion of a lap brought about a notable improvement in my lap time. Well, all until my final tour.

A slow driver on the racing line blocked me, ruining my time. When I unbuckled and exited the car though, I was still pleased because from the outset I had achieved a fourth place on the grid. I couldn’t believe that the season had started so well.

The result gave me a lot of confidence on the grid ahead of the opening race. As the lights went out I made a very good getaway, leapfrogging Mika Maki to go third.  I then passed Sam Bird around the outside of the hairpin to move into second place. In the first few laps the leader started to escape from me, but I soon began to gain ground and reel him in. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find a way by. Every time I approached his gearbox I lost aerodynamic load on the front-wing. In any case, a result of second was excellent considering that my pre-race objective was to finish among the top-five.

The grid was partially reversed for Sunday, with my second place equating to lining up in seventh. Before the race we opted to modifying the set-up a little in order to test out some new ideas, but on this occasion we didn’t find the right ones. The car was very nervous, and it was extremely easy to make a mistake.  I tried to concentrate on matching the rhythm of the leading group, and expected some mistakes from the drivers ahead given the intense nature of their fight. Then came my drive-through penalty. I had run two wheels over a painted line that marked the bounds of the circuit at the end of the pit straight. Since I had to pass through the pit lane at a maximum speed of 60 km/h, I lost some 20 seconds.

I left Hockenheim with a bounty of eight points, leaving me third overall in the standings. But more than that, I know that when the next race arrives I should be able to again fight for first position. I expect to do, at least, equally well, although my dream would be to dedicate to you my maiden victory in the championship. Thanks out there for supporting me!