It has been announced today that Manor driver Roberto Merhi incurred the wrath of the Formula Renault 3.5 stewards on Sunday after being excluded from two races at the Red Bull Ring.
Merhi, who drives for PONS Racing in World Series when the F1 calendar allows it, slowed dramatically after crossing the line in the first race of the weekend. Behind, Nicolas Lafiti was holding off Tom Dillman for fifth as he took the chequered flag and slammed into the back of Merhi’s PONS car at racing speed.
Lafiti was able to swerve just before rear-ending Merhi, with contact sending his car into a terrifying airborne spin to the opposite wall. Miraculously both drivers walked away unharmed from the crash and even shook hands before walking back to the pit lane.
However, the stewards came down hard on Merhi, not only disqualifying him from fourth place in race one but excluding him from starting race two altogether.
The Spaniard would have been on the front row for race two and criticised the decision of the stewards, though he did not confirm whether he had a problem which forced him to slow down. In a statement to the media today, Merhi has stated the following about the situation:-
‘First of all I want to say I am glad that Latifi is well, that’s all-important after what happened. Then I would like to denounce what I think is an excessive penalty imposed on me, and prevents me from fighting for victory in the second race this afternoon, in which [I was set to] start from second position.
‘If the incident is seen in the video, it is clear that when I stop, I’m going to the pitwall, and the people coming are far behind and on the other side [of the road]. There was no negligence to justify the penalty. Everything was completely random, and really it was a very unfortunate unfolding of events.’