Sunday, June 23, 2024

Roberto Merhi Replaces Oliver Rowland as Briton Departs Mahindra Racing

In a surprise announcement ahead of next weekend’s Jakarta E-Prix double-header, Mahindra Racing have revealed that ex-Manor Marussia F1 Team driver Roberto Merhi will be replacing Oliver Rowland, who has departed the team after spending eighteen months with the Indian manufacturer.

It was announced by the team Sunday morning that a “mutual agreement” had been reached between Rowland and the side for the Briton to vacate his seat for the remaining seven races of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, starting next weekend in Indonesia.

Having joined Mahindra at the start of Season Eight, Rowland has enjoyed minimal success, with his best result with the team having been second in the first race of the season finale double-header in Seoul last August. This year has been a disaster so far for Rowland, who’s reportedly not been pleased with the progress made by Mahindra’s Gen3 powertrain, which is arguably the weakest on the grid.

Rowland has claimed just two points finishes this year, with the Briton having finished sixth in Hyderabad and tenth in the second of two races in Berlin. His departure perhaps shows some of the frustrations amongst the team, who have failed to build on from Lucas di Grassi‘s podium at the season-opener.

Merhi enters the side having driven for them in the recent Rookie test in Berlin, where he impressed Team Principal Frederic Bertrand. The experienced Spaniard will at least have more time to get up to speed than normal next weekend given that it’s a double-header, with him being “determined” and “up for the challenge” of competing in the challenging series.

“It’s a huge honour for me to step in and represent Mahindra Racing for the races in Jakarta. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and I’m determined to make the most of it. I had a chance to drive the M9Electro at the rookie test in Berlin but Formula E is very different to any of the other series I’ve raced in so the learning curve will be steep. But I feel ready, excited and up for the challenge.” 

Team boss Bertrand also shared how “delighted” the Banbury-based team are to be welcoming Merhi into the side, who he expects to “slot into the team brilliantly”.

“We are delighted to welcome Roberto to the Mahindra Racing team. Roberto has impressive experience in top-level racing and a good track record in major championships. He had a great run with us at the Rookie Test in Berlin last month and we could see he had the potential to become a great asset for the Mahindra Racing team. It’s not easy to jump in mid-season, but Roberto has experience of working with the team, so I’m sure he will slot into the team brilliantly.”

According to The Race, Mahindra looked into the possibility of having reserve driver Jehan Daruvala replace Rowland next weekend; however, the Indian driver is tied-up with his Formula 2 commitments for MP Motorsport in Barcelona.

Whether Daruvala could be used beyond Jakarta remains to be seen, with Mahindra having so far only confirmed Merhi for next weekend’s tenth and eleven rounds of the season.

Following his “mutual” exit, Rowland’s time in Formula E could be over, with him having made his debut in a one-off appearance for Mahindra, funnily enough, at the Punta del Este E-Prix in Season Two (2015). His first full campaign in the all-electric series didn’t come until Season Five, when he was signed by Nissan. Rowland went on to complete three seasons for the Japanese manufacturer, before switching to Mahindra ahead of the final season of the Gen2 era.

Should he never return to the championship, then he at least leaves as a Formula E race winner, with his sole victory having come back in the COVID-19 affected Season Six, where he won the fifth of six races at the Tempelhof Airport Circuit, Berlin.

Credit: Sam Bloxham courtesy of FIA Formula E