Roberto Merhi says penalty not a disaster for victory chances in Macau
|By Jonathan Noble
||Thursday, November 17th 2011, 10:49 GMT
Roberto Merhi believes his chances of victory in the Macau Grand Prix have not been dented at all by either his qualifying crash or a three-place grid penalty he has been given.
The Spaniard was in strong form throughout first qualifying, delivering a lap that was 1.6 seconds quicker than nearest rival Marco Wittmann to secure himself provisional pole position.
But his afternoon took a turn for the worse when shortly after setting that benchmark time he slid into the back of Felix Rosenqvist under braking for Lisboa - putting both himself and his Mucke Motorsport rival out of action.
Then, following qualifying, he was given a three-place grid penalty for having crossed the yellow pitlane exit line in first practice.
Despite the double blow, Merhi remains upbeat about his prospects for the race - especially since he was so quickly up to speed on the opening day of action.
"Three places is not a big disaster," Merhi told AUTOSPORT. "Here, you can be fourth at the start and first into Lisboa. And maybe it is even better than starting first – because there you have no tow at all! Let's see.
"I think I have a lot of confidence on myself and my team, and it looks like this because I was so quick in the rain."
Merhi insists he could not see where the pitlane exit line was on the track because there was so much spray being thrown up by cars ahead of him.
"I think I didn't cross it," he said. "I really want to check if I did cross it, but when I went out I am car number 11, and both TOM'S were in front of me, so I was the 13th car to go out. Everybody was doing wheelspin so the first time you go on the track you can't see anything, and I couldn't see the yellow line."
Talking about his crash with Rosenqvist, Merhi said: "I was going for a slipstream with [Richie] Stanaway, but I was really far away and he went to the right at the end of the straight.
"Rosenqvist was ahead of us and slow, and when I went to the left of Stanaway I find Rosenqvist in front. I hit the brakes and then my mechanic came on the radio and said 'yellow flag, brake!' I locked the tyres and hit Felix really hard.
"It was a shame. He is a really good guy and we are really good friends, so it is not nice when you crash with someone else, but especially with him. But I think it was not possible for me to do anything else, because you could not see anything as there was a lot of spray."