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Formula E Jakarta ePrix I

Mahindra explains decision to sign Merhi for Jakarta FE after Rowland split

Mahindra Racing team principal Frederic Bertrand has explained why the team chose Roberto Merhi to race in the Jakarta Formula E round following its sudden split from Oliver Rowland.

Roberto Merhi, Mahindra Racing

Mahindra and Rowland came to a “mutual agreement” to part ways last week, one-and-a-half years after the British driver joined the squad for the final Gen2 season in 2022.

It left Mahindra in a rush to look for a replacement, with former Formula 1 driver Merhi eventually chosen to take his place at the team for this weekend’s double header in Indonesia.

The Spaniard started 13 F1 races for Manor in 2015 and scored a best finish of 12th at the British Grand Prix. He has since made three Le Mans 24 Hours starts and raced in Super GT.

Bertrand revealed that Mahindra considered a number of drivers for the seat alongside Lucas di Grassi, including reserve driver Jehan Daruvala and development driver Jordan King, before eventually deciding in favour of 32-year-old Merhi.

All three drivers had taken part in the Berlin rookie test at the end of April, giving Mahindra a chance to directly compare their performance.

While Daruvala's nationality may have been an appealing option for the Indian squad, his Formula 2 commitments with MP Motorsport meant he was unable to step in at the last moment.

“There were several options on the table,” Bertrand told Autosport.

“I would not say there was one A, B, C, there were several on the table and unfortunately some options closed by themselves. Jehan was busy with F2, some were not necessarily unavailable.

"On top, Roberto did a good test in Berlin and we think that he had the good background, the good behaviour, the good spirit, he is very motivated. 

“So for us it's also a bit of fresh air into the system to have different views and someone joining the team and bringing his own way of being, which corresponds a bit to the way we would like, joyful and fast. 

Oliver Rowland, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Oliver Rowland, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

“He is building up right now but that's how the choice came. There was clearly the Jehan option but he was busy and then we had the second option was the two drivers who tested with us in Berlin. 

“Few others were also on the table but it was making sense to go on with one of the two testing and Roberto has been the one chosen.”

Mahindra didn’t offer an explanation as to why it came to an agreement with Rowland to end their contract early when it made the shock announcement last Sunday.

One-time E-Prix winner Rowland had scored points in just two of the first nine races of 2023 with an M9Electro package that was among the weakest on the grid. The British driver also suffered a bruised hand that required a hospital visit following an incident at the previous round in Monaco.

Asked to provide a reason behind the split, given how unusual it is for a team to part ways with a driver mid-season, Bertrand said: “I'm not so sure it’s special to be honest. It's more in the same target that the one we have. 

“We found a common agreement with Ollie. We found it was better at that time of the year to take a bit of time to think and that's what we agreed.”

Merhi excited after last-minute call-up

Merhi received a call from Mahindra late on Saturday night about Jakarta, just a day before the team officially announced that he has been signed to take the place of Rowland.

A quick visit to Mahindra’s workshop in Banbury followed, where he spent some time on the team’s simulator to prepare himself for his FE debut.

“I am very excited to be honest. First time to race in Formula E, really looking forward to it,” Merhi told Autosport.

Roberto Merhi, Mahindra Racing

Roberto Merhi, Mahindra Racing

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“I had no time [to prepare properly. Saturday night I got the call. Then Sunday I had to fly to England and Monday I have been doing the simulator with the team. That has been very positive. 

“But at the end of the day it's a simulator, it's not the same as the real [thing].

"I hope that preparation helps me a bit and I'm able to translate it into the car and all what my engineers and the team has told me, that I'm able to do it. Let's see if I am able to.”

Merhi is currently locked in only for Jakarta, with Mahindra yet to make a decision as to who will drive in the final five races of the season across Portland, Rome and London.

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