• Caterham

Merhi confident of full-time drive

ESPN Staff
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Roberto Merhi at Macau in 2011 © Sutton Images

Roberto Merhi admits he hopes his FP1 appearance at the Italian Grand Prix leads to a race debut before the end of the 2014 season.

Merhi's name emerged over the summer break as a potential replacement for Kamui Kobayashi, who stepped aside in Belgium for three-time Le Mans 24 Hours champion Andre Lotterer. Kobayashi returns to race duties this weekend but will hand his car over to Merhi for Friday's first practice session.

Merhi, 23, is currently second in Formula Renault 3.5 after two seasons in DTM and though a possible race seat could open up before the end of the season the Spaniard says he needs a good FP1 session to obtain an FIA superlicence.

"At the moment it looks like they will let me do FP1 and then let's see for the future," Merhi said. "If everything goes well I don't think it will be a problem, but if something does go wrong I think it will be a problem, I guess. But at the moment everything looks OK from our side.

"The idea is to do FP1, to see how much I can learn from the car and about F1. Then we will see what's going on and what is the next target. But Singapore is quite a tough place to debut! Lot's of corners, and the night!"

Merhi insists he has not paid for his Friday morning opportunity.

"At the moment, no. The team called me and asked me to meet them in England. I went there and did a few simulator runs, which was pretty OK. Then I went to Spa, they invited me last minute, I came and now I am here. At the moment it looks like it will be OK that I'm not racing. Mercedes backs me in the World Series season, which was really good after not having a place in DTM. Here I don't have any financial support"

Despite seeing Lotterer outqualify Marcus Ericsson on his F1 debut, Merhi is under no illusions how difficult it will be adapt to a V6 turbo car in one practice session.

"It's a hard situation, because you need to prove you are ready to prove you are ready to race but also build up your confidence in the car. You have just one hour and a half, plus you have two new sets of tyres - one straight away and the other one half an hour later, so you can't just drive for a long time on one and then put the other on late. You need to show you have consistent lap times and give good feedback to the team so they know the car is behaving - this is a mandatory thing."

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