Caterham recall Kamui Kobayashi for Italian GP but Roberto Merhi given P1 chance
But team yet to confirm how long Japanese will be back in seat for
By James Galloway at Monza. Last Updated: 05/09/14 11:21am
Kamui Kobayashi has been recalled to his Caterham seat for this weekend's Italian GP, although in a potential signs of things to come, the team are handing Spanish youngster Roberto Merhi his F1 debut in Practice One.
In what is the second shuffling of drivers at the team since the change of ownership in July, Kobayashi will be back in his CT05 car from Practice Two onwards at Monza, a fortnight after being dropped for Spa in favour of F1 novice Andre Lotterer.
Although Lotterer, who impressed on his grand prix weekend debut and outqualified the team's regular race driver Marcus Ericsson by a full second in the wet, stressed throughout the Belgian GP that as things stood his run in the car was a one-off, Caterham reputedly tried to get the German sportscar driver to race again at Monza.
However, with the team also wanting to run Formula Renault 3.5 front-runner Merhi in Practice One for the first time, it ended up being Kobayashi who was given the race call-up for Italy.
Despite beings stood down for Belgium, Caterham insisted that Kobayashi remained part of the team and therefore the Japanese driver is pleased to be back in action for the first time since the Hungarian GP in late July.
"I am working for Caterham F1 Team and I always respect team decisions. Now I am back in the car and looking forward to going racing again!" Kobayashi said.
"We have worked hard as a team and added performance to the car as well as bringing new updates since I last drove in Hungary before the summer break, so I'm looking forward to feeling the updates on track here in Monza. I always enjoy the Italian GP, not only because of its high-speed nature; I also like the Italian fans, they are always very enthusiastic and a very big part of the Italian GP weekend. They create a very special atmosphere."
Since handing the 32-year-old Lotterer his F1 debut, speculation has suggested that Caterham may continue to rotate their drivers over the remainder of the season, with Merhi and Red Bull protege Carlos Sainz Jr's names also having been in the frame.
For Merhi, the chance to make his top-level motorsport debut on Friday morning at F1's 'Temple of Speed' is one he is naturally relishing.
"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!" the 23-year-old said.
"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."