When Roberto Merhi was cut loose from the Mercedes DTM team at the end of the 2013 season, the Spaniard was left facing a bleak future.
Some post-season tests gave Merhi options for the year, but when the 23-year-old joined the small Zeta Corse team, precious little was expected. That he took three victories on the way to 3rd in the championship upon his return to single-seaters displays just how close motorsport came to losing an excellent talent.
A podium in the opening race at Monza was something of a false dawn and Merhi spent the following two race weekends in the lower reaches of the points, before a pointless trip to Spa-Francorchamps in May left the Castellón native far adrift of the championship leaders.
The season began to turn around come the season halfway point at Moscow Raceway, as a succession of tight and twisty tracks played to Zeta Corse’s favour. Truth be told, the upturn in results had as much to do with Merhi’s abilities as it had with Zeta Corse’s growth in confidence.
In just their 2nd season, the Russian team were finally beginning to dial into the technicalities of the series; however their run began to falter as the series transferred to the quicker Paul Ricard circuit in September.
Merhi still held an outside shot of the title going into the final round in Jerez, but it required the Spaniard to victorious in both races, with points leader (and eventual champion) Carlos Sainz Jr scoring virtually nothing. Once again, the speed of the Jerez made Merhi’s efforts difficult, but a crash in the opening race put the result beyond doubt.
A further retirement in the season finale only served to drop Merhi to 3rd in the standings when the ever-consistent Pierre Gasly jumped him following a fine debut season in the category.
Yet Merhi might still consider this a reasonably successful effort, considering his brief thoughts of retiring from motorsport altogether at the beginning of the year. While no championship title, Merhi’s career does seem to be getting back on track, although where the Spaniard goes next remains to be seen.