Roberto Merhi will make his Formula E debut next weekend in Jakarta as Oliver Rowland has agreed to stand down from the Mahindra Racing team he has raced for since the beginning of the 2022 season.
What is set to be Rowland’s final race for Mahindra was at Monaco earlier this month. That ended with a bruised hand after he hit the back of Edoardo Mortara’s Maserati at the harbourside chicane.
That hand injury, though, is not believed to be the reason for the change.
The 30 year-old has privately been disillusioned by the lack of competitiveness of the Mahindra M9Electro this season, with the only points finishes to his name a sixth place in Hyderabad and a 10th at Berlin Tempelhof.
He has, however, had the advantage over team-mate Lucas di Grassi in qualifying, starting from an average grid slot of 15th while the Brazilian’s average is a slightly higher 16th.
Rowland also led the qualifying stats 5-3 against his new team-mate, who has struggled to repeat any trace of the form with which he finished third in the opening race in Mexico City.
Mahindra has announced Rowland’s exit as being the result of a “mutual agreement”.
The Race understands that Mahindra wanted to run its reserve driver Jehan Daruvala at Jakarta next week but it is believed it was unable to extricate him from a clashing commitment – the Formula 2 round in Barcelona, which he is to contest as part of his campaign with MP Motorsport.
Merhi, who started 13 Formula 1 grands prix for Marussia in 2015, drove the Mahindra in the Berlin rookie test alongside Daruvala and the team’s sim driver Jordan King.
“Roberto has impressive experience in top-level racing and a good track record in major championships. He had a great run with us at the rookie test in Berlin last month and we could see he had the potential to become a great asset for the Mahindra Racing team,” said team CEO Frederic Bertrand.
“It’s not easy to jump in mid-season, but Roberto has experience of working with the team, so I’m sure he will slot into the team brilliantly.”
Teams are duty-bound to nominate any driver change 14 days before an event but several criteria of force majeure exist for teams to do beyond that deadline.
Mahindra has had a torrid 2023 to date.
It had to withdraw all four of its cars in Cape Town due to suspension-related safety issues, and its works team has registered just 27 points in nine races – leaving it 10th in the standings with only its customer team Abt behind it.
Rowland, who recorded 32 of the 46 points scored by the outfit last season, will now look for alternative options to to extend a Formula E career that began with Mahindra in the 2015-16 season with a one-off outing deputising for an injured Nick Heidfeld at Punta del Este.
He was then picked up by Nissan in late 2018 after Alex Albon’s late move to the Toro Rosso F1 team for the following season.
Rowland was an instant frontrunner at Nissan, starting from three pole positions in his first season and then scoring his maiden win at one of the six 2020 Berlin E-Prix races.
Merhi is only formally confirmed for Jakarta so far, Mahindra saying that the outing will “enable him to gain valuable race experience”.