'Without the right car, driving in Formula 1 doesn't make sense'

F1 News

Roberto Merhi on driving in Formula 1
10 June at 18:00
  • Ludo van Denderen

Roberto Merhi also had that one dream. As almost all young drivers see reaching Formula 1 as the ultimate goal. Unlike many of his peers, Merhi did indeed manage to reach the pinacle of motorsport, but in the inferior Manor Racing, the Spaniard could not make a go of it. As quickly as the adventure began, Formula 1 was already a bygone station.

For some years now, Merhi has belonged to the ranks of forgotten Formula 1 drivers. There are more and more of them; drivers who are allowed to try out for one or two seasons, usually in a rearguard team, only to be sidelined without mercy. It is the harsh reality of motorsport. Sometimes they are not good enough to eventually advance to a top team, or fight a battle during Grands Prix that can never be won and are judged by the outside world on the basis of those 'disappointing' performances for the rest of your career.

'Waste of time'

After years of investing in himself to finally make it to Formula One, his best result was a 12th-place finish at Silverstone. With the Manor, Merhi was mostly field filler. "It's nice to be in Formula 1, but if you cannot have the right car and the right equipment to perform well and to show your abilities, it doesn't make sense," said Merhi, who recently made his entrance into Formula E for the Mahindra team, during an interview with GPblog. "Because you just waste your time and your golden years, on trying to achieve Formula 1."

After his season for Manor, Merhi competed in various racing classes. He even returned (temporarily) to Formula 2. In 2022, he last competed a few races for Campos. "But at the end of the day, when I did Formula 2, it's not like I was signing for a full year. It was always a last-minute call, like: 'Hey, Roberto, can you come?' And as a driver, to race in a Formula, even a Formula 2, with a lot of downforce, with proper cars, that we like to drive those kinds of cars. When is the last time I'm going to drive Formula 2? I thought I would never drive it again, but they called me last year to drive it again. How am I going to say no to that opportunity? I know I cannot maybe go to Formula 1 because I don't have the budget, I don't have maybe the age, but it's a nice experience in life that you take. Like maybe Fernando now, if he wants to do Formula 1 because he enjoys it."

Merhi had plenty of talent

Merhi was on the grid with Alonso and also his good friend Carlos Sainz in 2015. Talent to have a similar career to the two current icons of Spanish motorsport, the current Formula E driver did have. "If you see my career in Formula 3, I dominated the championship last year. I won with so many points, and the level on the grid was pretty good."

He continued: "In Formula Renault, I was like two years younger than Bottas and Ricciardo. I will not say that I was beating them, but I would say we were at the same level, at least. I was 16, and they were 18. At that age, it makes a bit of a difference. It's not like when you are 24 and 26. And I was able to compete against them and be at the level. At least in the wet, I was quicker, in the dry we were pretty similar, all three of us. And also in World Series, I was fighting against Carlos [Sainz], and he is one of the best Formula 1 drivers on the grid now. I was fighting against Gasly. I was ahead of Gasly, I would say, to be honest, even if he won the championship, but my car broke down in the last two races. But you need to be in the right moment at the right time. That's Formula 1. I am sure if the most talented guy in the world now starts racing and he is not in the right moment at the right time, he will never be able to show his potential."

Merhi takes Daniel Ricciardo as an example. "Imagine, let's put the example of Ricciardo. He goes into Formula 1 and his first year and his first experience is with McLaren. Obviously, everybody will think he is not good enough for Formula 1. Then they will throw him out from Formula 1. But actually, he showed that he has a very good capability with Toro Rosso, with Red Bull, with Renault. But with McLaren, it didn't work out. And it's a very good team. He won a race, even. But, you know, I think it's important to be in the right time at the right moment and the team adapts to you and the car adapts to your style and that you are happy with the team. That's what makes the last difference," the Spaniard said.