Official: Oliver Rowland to vacate Mahindra Racing cockpit - Merhi takes over in Jakarta
Oliver Rowland will vacate his Formula E cockpit at Mahindra Racing with immediate effect. The team confirmed on Sunday that the Briton had recently made the decision to leave the Indian squad - according to media reports due to "unsatisfactory results" in the 2023 season so far. At the Jakarta E-Prix, former Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi will step in instead.
It is another setback for Formula E team Mahindra Racing: As the team confirmed in a press release on Sunday, Oliver Rowland is no longer to compete for the Indian racing team from the Jakarta E-Prix. Spaniard Roberto Merhi will take over the car at the double-header in Indonesia. According to a report by 'The Race', Rowland is said to be "disillusioned with the lack of competitiveness of the Mahindra M9Electro.".
The team did not, however, confirm whether unsatisfactory results are the real reason for his exit. The Indian squad simply stated that they have "mutually agreed with Oliver Rowland that he will step aside for the next seven races."
Disappointing results as reason for Mahindra exit?
30-year-old Rowland first started for Mahindra in 2015, when he stepped in for Nick Heidfeld at a race in Uruguay. A few years later, he climbed into the cockpit for Nissan e.dams and scored a race win in Berlin in 2020. In 2022, he switched back to Mahindra, where he has so far been unable to match his form from previous seasons.
In the 2023 season, Rowland only scored points at the Hyderabad and Berlin E-Prix, when he finished in positions 6 and 10 respectively. In a direct qualifying comparison with his teammate Lucas di Grassi, the score after eight races is 5:3 in favor of Rowland, who is currently only 19th in the drivers' championship. Di Grassi is 15th - thanks solely to the points he scored for pole position and 3rd place at the season opener in Mexico.
Merhi takes over in Jakarta
As a replacement for Rowland, Mahindra has signed Roberto Merhi - at least for the Jakarta E-Prix. The Spaniard contested a total of 13 Formula 1 races for Marussia in 2015, but spent a rather low-key time in Formula Renault 3.5 and FIA Formula 2 after that. Most recently, Merhi took part in Formula E's rookie test day in Berlin, where he completed 55 laps for the Banbury-based and team.
"It is a great honor for me to be able to represent Mahindra at the races in Jakarta," Merhi said. "I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and will make the most of it. I had the chance to drive the M9Electro at the rookie test in Berlin, but Formula E is very different to any other series I have raced in. The learning curve will definitely be steep. But I feel ready, excited and fit for the challenge."
Daruvala misses Formula E debut due to Formula 2 start in Spain
It is uncertain whether Merhi will also be in the car after the races in Indonesia. The team's official reserve driver is actually Jehan Daruvala, but he will not be able to travel to Jakarta due to a scheduling conflict with Formula 2. Mahindra Racing CEO Frederic Bertrand therefore only expressed his anticipation of Merhi's start just regarding the Indonesia weekend. "Roberto a lot of experience in top-level motorsport and a good track record in major championships," the Frenchman said.
"He had a good run with us at the rookie test in Berlin last month and we could see that he has the potential to play an important role for Mahindra. It's not easy to join in the middle of the season, but he knows how the team works. I am sure he will fit in extremely well with us." The Jakarta E-Prix will thus take place on June 3-4, 2023, with two debutants, as Andretti is also replacing one of their drivers. At the U.S. racing team, David Beckmann will stand in for Andre Lotterer (we reported).