Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Roberto Merhi to race for Manor in Formula One debut

Reuters, LONDON

Spaniard Roberto Merhi will make his Formula One race debut in Australia this weekend after the revived Manor Marussia team named him in their lineup for the season opener.

The team said the 23-year-old, who will partner with Britain’s Will Stevens in Melbourne, would compete in the opening rounds of the season.

What happens after that remains unclear, with Merhi only recently agreeing to a deal to return to the Renault 3.5 series that starts late next month.

Marussia have been more focused on securing their immediate survival than any long-term planning, with the British-based team only recently emerging from administration after missing the last three races last year.

Britain’s Jordan King, the 21-year-old son of the team’s interim chairman and former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King, was appointed as a development driver while also competing in GP2.

“It is fantastic to welcome Roberto and Jordan to the team,” principal John Booth said of the announcement, which comes only three days before the first practice at Albert Park.

“Not only are they very talented young drivers with exciting futures ahead of them, they have also been graduates of Manor Motorsport in the junior formulae, which is obviously very rewarding for us,” Booth said.

Merhi, who raced with Manor in the Formula Three Euroseries in 2009 and finished third in last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series, would be the second Spanish rookie on the grid in Melbourne, with Carlos Sainz lining up for Toro Rosso.

However, Spain’s most successful driver, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, will be absent after the McLaren driver crashed in testing.

Merhi took part in three free practice sessions with now defunct Caterham last season.

The Castellon-born driver said he was excited to be finally stepping up to the starting grid.

“It is a big responsibility, but I feel ready to make this step in my career and to show that I can make an important contribution to developing a team,” he said.

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