Formula Renault 3.5 frontrunner Roberto Merhi will make his Formula 1 debut on Friday in practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza with the Caterham team.
Merhi emerged as a surprise contender to race with Caterham in the upcoming races during the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Reports suggest that Merhi would have been a race driver for the team this weekend but for concerns relating to his superlicence. The 2011 European F3 champion has never driven an F1 car before, but will be allowed to do so in practice.
Having raced at Spa, Andre Lotterer has allegedly turned down the chance to continue in Monza because Merhi would be in his car in FP1. Kamui Kobayashi will therefore return, but it seems likely that Merhi will take over the seat in the coming races.
?I am delighted to be taking part in my first ever Formula 1 Free Practice session and I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this opportunity ? it?s something I?ve wanted for a very long time,” said Merhi, 23.
“I?ve been working very closely with the team during the last few weeks and I feel ready for this opportunity; Friday is going to be a very special day for me and one I will never forget.
“Monza is also one of my favourite tracks ? I ended up on the podium there earlier this year during my first race of the season in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, so it?s a circuit that will bring back very good memories.
“What a year it?s been so far: last Christmas I didn?t really know if I was going to carry on racing and now I?m about to drive a Formula 1 car! I?m definitely going to make the most out of this weekend in Italy.?
After winning the European F3 title in 2011, Merhi spent two difficult seasons in the DTM with Mercedes and then returned to single-seaters this year in FR3.5 with the Zeta Corse team. Starting the year with a podium at Monza, wins at the two most recent rounds at Moscow and the Nurburgring have brought him to second in the standings behind fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz.