Kobayashi returns as Merhi gets first practice run

2014 Italian Grand Prix

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Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, Red Bull Ring, 2014Kamui Kobayashi will return to action in this week’s Italian Grand Prix after his place was taken by Andre Lotterer in Belgium.

Caterham confirmed he will be back in the car from the second practice session at Monza.

“I am working for Caterham F1 Team and I always respect team decisions,” said Kobayashi of the team’s decision to substitute him at Spa. “Now I am back in the car and looking forward to going racing again.”

“We have worked hard as a team and added performance to the car as well as bringing new updates since I last drove in Hungary before the summer break, so I’m looking forward to feeling the updates on track here in Monza.”

Kobayashi’s chassis will be used by Roberto Merhi during first practice as he makes his debut appearance in an F1 session.

The 23-year-old Spaniard won the European Formula Three title in 2011. Having spent two years driving for Mercedes in the DTM he returned to single-seaters this year and is currently second in Formula Renault 3.5.

“I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this opportunity,” said Merhi, “it’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time.”

“I’ve been working very closely with the team during the last few weeks and I feel ready for this opportunity. Friday is going to be a very special day for me and one I will never forget.”

Merhi made his return to single-seater racing at Monza, finishing second in his first race for Formula Renault 3.5 team Zeta Corse.

“Monza is also one of my favourite tracks,” he added, “I ended up on the podium there earlier this year during my first race of the season in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, so it’s a circuit that will bring back very good memories.”

He said it was a surprise to finally get the chance to drive an F1 car. “What a year it’s been so far – last Christmas I didn’t really know if I was going to carry on racing and now I’m about to drive a Formula One car!”

“I’m definitely going to make the most out of this weekend in Italy.”

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    35 comments on “Kobayashi returns as Merhi gets first practice run”

    1. Lets hope it remains that way.

    2. Liam McShane (@)
      4th September 2014, 8:24

      I no longer care what that team does. They’re acting like HRT and that ended well for them.

      1. @motor_mad I would argue the two drivers the new management have put in the car this year (Lotterer, Merhi) are more credible prospects than the two who were in there to begin with (Kobayashi, Ericsson).

        1. Liam McShane (@)
          4th September 2014, 8:47

          I agree, which is why I think it is a mistake to keep Kobayashi. He was beaten by Perez at Sauber and yet I see many people criticising Perez and yet they all highly rate Kobayashi.

          1. @motor_mad they’re both pretty mediocre drivers who seem to have no more than three decent races a season and are anonymous in the other 16 or so. Interestingly, in the season where Perez had his ‘strongest’ season, he only scored six more points than his team mate, and only scored three more points than Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India which didn’t achieve a single podium that year.

          2. It does seem to me, from what I read, that Kobayashi is pretty overrated by many. I think his overtakes for Toyota in late 2009 stick in people’s minds when they think of him, while his three years with Sauber were quite forgettable, bar a couple of stand-out results.

          3. I don’t think Perez is a bad driver, he has a habit of being over-aggressive with other drivers but his race pace has always been exemplary. Even this year he’s often not far from Hulkenberg, or even ahead of him.

        2. @keithcollantine I would argue that you’re wrong. re:Kobayashi of course, not Ericsson.
          @motormad KK beaten by Perez? That’s arguable, depends on which criteria you’re looking at. For example, many people say he’s beaten because he had 3 podiums to KK’s one in 2012. By that criteria he’s beating NH as well. Oh wait…

        3. Great comment! I heard something about Merhi but not much. When it comes to Lotterer though, I would put him in this car in favor of Kamui every day.

          1. @toxic I’d do it in favour of Ericsson instead of KK

        4. Im a bit gutted for Lotterer not getting a race distance in at Spa ,

          I think a great many people were watching him closely ,

          Im not sure which i feel most let down by ,
          Caterhams failure or Mercs tangle ?

        5. I would Keep Koba, dump Erricsson and bring in Lotterer.
          Yes I actually rate Kobayashi as driver. He’s no less skilled than Hulk or Perez IMO.

    3. don’t know why but i was kind of hoping kobayashi wouldn’t return. anyway, i’m sure caterham will allow merhi (or gasly perhaps) to drive a full weekend.

      1. @rigi yeah I also don’t know why you would want that either…

        1. @montreal95 i guess i don’t want kamuis f1 career to end this way, caterham are only getting him in the car because they can’t get lotterer or merhi to race the whole weekend. this whole you’re in/you’re out thing, it’s not a very nice way to end an f1 career. it’s a shame and kamui would be better off going back to ferrari in WEC, instead of driving for a team that only uses him when they can’t get another driver, just for the sake of driving an f1 car.

          1. @rigi Thanks a lot for the clarification. I can agree with that but it’s important to understand that when KK signed with Caterham it was always a possibility that it’ll end this way

            Moreover, I’m not giving up hope that KK will find another drive next season. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.

            KK deserves a lot of respect of striving to do what he loves and pursue his dream which is F1 and not some GT cars in WEC. I also think that even driving for Caterham, bad as they are, is way better than driving even a works Ferrari in WEC which is not racing at all but, as I said many times here in the past, just a boring high-speed engineering exercise. That is of course a subjective sentiment but one that fortunately, for me as his fan, Kamui seems to share

            1. @montreal95 i fully agree with you that he deserves a drive, but he doesn’t have any backing and after a year at caterham.. i’m just not sure if that’ll do him any good.

            2. @rigi I’m not sure either, but he still deserves respect for trying. And performances like in today’s Monza qualifying can’t hurt either :)

    4. Fair dos to Roberto, he’s had an excellent return to single seater racing after being well of the pace in DTM and worryingly in pre-season testing for Zeta Corse earlier this year. However Merhi has comprehensively put that behind him and has been arguably the fastest man in the FR3.5 field in the past two rounds to give him a remote shot at shaking the one hand Sainz already has one the 2014 FR3.5 title from the Spaniard’s grip. That said, if Merhi does manage to grapple a race seat for 2015 I won’t begrudge myself a melancholy nod the the DTM imprisoned Robert Wickens…

    5. According to Autosport, it was only his inability to obtain a superlicence in time which prevented Mehri from replacing Kobayashi for the full weekend.

      Strictly speaking Mehri doesn’t meet the qualifications, which to my mind shows that they should be made a little more flexible. Anyone who wins a Euro F3 title, spends two years in a series as competitive as DTM and is currently running second in FR 3.5 is eminently qualified to race an F1 car.

      I’ve also read that Mehri is still a show to debut at Singapore (presumably after racking up the necessary 300km in FP1 and at a private track day). That would be about as tough an introduction as you could think of!

        1. @tdog if I remember rightly winning Euro F3 is sufficient provided they are the reigning champion. But because this year’s 3.5 series isn’t over yet, Merhi doesn’t qualify for a superlicense currently until the final race provided he finishes in the top 3 in the standings. I wonder if @keithcollantine can shed a bit more light on this.

          1. If I remember rightly winning Euro F3 is sufficient provided they are the reigning champion

            Correct. See Chapter I, Article 5, Appendix L of the Sporting Regs:-


            So, back in 2012 Merhi would have been eligible for a super licence as the reigning Euro F3 Champion. But the additional experience of 2 years in DTM, and half a season in FR 3.5, makes him ineligible. Madness!

            Looks like he has to win the FR 3.5 title to automatically qualify for a super licence.

    6. Keith, do you know if Merhi is from Arab origin or not? his family name is from the Middle East I believe.

    7. Merhi deserves a shot. He has been very impressive in 3.5 this year on his return to single seaters and has troubled Carlos Sainz Jr, which many didn’t really expect. Zeta Corse isn’t a team that doesn’t seem to be a top team when it comes to junior level classes, which makes his 2014 look even more impressive.

      1. @craig-o Don’t disagree about Merhi being good but I do disagree about Zeta Corse. They have a good car in what is, don’t forget, a spec series. The only reason why Merhi has scored 100% of their points is that they’re owned by Russians and are obliged to run a Russian money-bag no hopper in the second car. And yes, they aren’t short of funds either

    8. If I were Kamui, I would treat this, his 72nd Grand Prix, as his last. Kamui should have known that bringing no money to a team like Caterham was always going to be risky, and it has indeed backfired on him. I hope he can get his Ferrari seat back in the WEC, he’s a great guy an on his day, very fast. The only consolation in this is that Merhi is a proper talent. Certainly there are more deserving junior drivers, such as Nasr, Vandoorne, Sainz etc, but there’s no doubt Roberto’s a good driver. His DTM form was pretty ropey, he barely beat Susie in 2012, and last year his qualifying was appalling, though he was epic in the wet at Hockenheim. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on…

      1. @jmc200

        Kamui should have known that bringing no money to a team like Caterham was always going to be risky

        He did bring money – from his Kamui support fund.

        1. I know, but I meant in terms of modern F1 sponsorship (where Adrian Sutil’s 5 million – stat from F1 racing – is considered a low amount) the 1 million or so Kamui brings is basically nothing, I suppose it covers the salary he would have had, but it offers nothing in terms of development money. It’s a shame, but to my mind while Bernie runs the show this crisis will not be abated soon…

    9. Good to see KK back even in the Caterham, which is a travesty that that’s what he has to drive.

      However if this newly returned HRT, drops him one more time this season, he should drop them for good. And even if he finishes this season, he should definitely leave. It’s very clear that they’re going to where all of Kolles’ teams have gone before-to the garbage dump of history. They have no future, and KK would be better off looking for a place in another team ASAP. Perhaps Sauber if they can find funds? Failing that, he should turn to Indycars.
      Why not a return to WEC? Because I’m glad to say that KK seems to share my views on endurance “racing”, namely it being a boring high speed engineering exercise and nothing more

    10. Something very interesting from German “Motorsport Magazin” on Andre Lotterers possible drive in Monza:


      First three paragraphs translate to (Bing translate):

      Because Caterham wanted to have Roberto Merhi driving first training at Monza, Andre Lotterer rejected the cockpit he occupied in Spa for the first time.

      First it was only plan B by Colin Kolles, insert Roberto Mehri in the first practice of Monza, and therefore Lotterer said, To want to ride in the Grand Prix of Italy. “I had my doubts,” said the German. He then accepted to reprint of the team however.

      “When Colin Kolles told me on Tuesday however that Mehri would take my place in the first session, I mean changed mind and announced not to go, because I’m a newbie and must drive” Lotterer explained his cancellation.


      I can really understand Lotterer and I think it clearly shows that he’s more interested in a professional way of working than just the glory of driving an F1 car.

      1. I agree, it must have been a tough but mature decision. Respect to Lotterer. He recognised as a new driver that he needed every practice session he could get, and if he wasn’t going to get that then it would really impact his race. Bowing out makes sense

    11. I hope Merhi gets a full time seat. He’s a great driver, so is Kobayashi but to be honest I think he was better placed with AF Corse rather than joining a backmarker team while not bringing in any money – that was never going to work out.

      I hope Merhi joins the team and starts showing Ericsson up big time, Ericsson is just Chilton 2.0; completely unspectacular in pretty much every way.

    12. Kobayshi is getting yanked around by the team because they’re stuck now and of course grovelling for direction and money. So he should drive it as hard as he can until it breaks.

      I am curious if Lotterer got the word from Japan to not be sitting in the green car this weekend…. I was looking forward to seeing if he would have better success this weekend.

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