We had only just said good bye to the crash prone Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, after his millions of dollars sponsorship dried up, but now hot on his heels comes another make-weight in the F1 teams.
The new driver is 23 year old Rio Haryanto who will make history by becoming the first Indonesian to compete in F1 and joins Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein in an all-rookie line-up for the season that begins March 20 in Melbourne, Australia, driving for the Manor team.
“Melbourne will be a huge moment for me, my country, supporters and fans and I want to thank everyone who’s been with me since I started in single-seaters,” Haryanto said in a team statement issued on Thursday.
“2016 is my chance to reward that faith and represent Asia in F1.”
The second race seat at Manor was the last vacancy among the 11 teams for 2016, and Haryanto’s appointment completes the driver line-up.
Haryanto has spent the past four seasons racing in the GP2 series and has had commercial backing from Indonesia’s state oil and gas company Pertamina.
Manor owner Stephen Fitzpatrick said Haryanto is “tenacious on and off the track and made a big impression on last year’s GP2 battle”.
“Rio’s huge following in Indonesia is great for the team and for F1. They are keen to see him on the grid and we’re confident that we’ll see him enjoying some exciting battles in the year ahead,” Fitzpatrick said.
The appointment of Wehrlein and Haryanto means there is no place for American driver Alex Rossi, who raced with the team last year and had been hopeful of retaining his place (but his piggy bank wasn’t big enough).
Haryanto’s links to the Manor team can be traced back to 2010 when he drove for the team’s GP3 squad. He continued with Manor in GP3 in 2011, before graduating to GP2 in 2012.
He partnered Max Chilton that season and the pair both earned their super licenses at the young driver test at Silverstone with Marussia. During the GP2 campaign, Haryanto was comprehensively outperformed by Chilton, finishing over 130 points behind his teammate.
While Chilton graduated to F1 and then to Indycar in the US, Haryanto continued in GP2 finishing 19th in the standings in 2013, 15th in 2014 and fourth in 2015.
Haryanto gained further F1 experience at the end of 2015 when he completed 56 laps at Pirelli’s post-season tyre test in Abu Dhabi with Manor.
Manor’s switch to a Mercedes engine this season had raised hopes of a more competitive showing for the team, which entered the sport in 2010 as Virgin and then Marussia.
I hope they spend the Indonesian Rupiah wisely, and not all in the same shop.