By: Jaime Santos
After a dramatic end to the recent Formula One season, we’re all anticipating the news and rumors about the potential teams, regulations and cars for the upcoming season. But as fans, we often think about the past events and drivers in Formula One, such as when people became ecstatic to see Nico Hulkenberg briefly race using the “Pink Mercedes”. But for today’s look into the past, we’ll take a look into Indonesia’s first Formula One driver, Rio Haryanto.
Born in Sukarta, Indonesia, Rio grew up in a household that was enamored with motorsports. His father, Sinyo Haryanto was a drag racer in the 1980s Indonesian scene, while his older brothers, Roy and Ryan Haryanto, competed in the Formula Atlantic and the Asian Formula Renault Championship series respectively.
Haryanto’s notable career started by racing in Asian-based series, the GP3 Series and the Auto GP series. Afterwardsm Haryanto raced in GP2 (or Formula 2 as we call it now) for around four years, and he briefly raced in Formula One for half a season (12 races). But just looking at the numbers won’t show us just how good a motorsport driver Haryanto is. When looking at his GP2 career, it is important to admit that he stayed in this series for a relatively decent amount of time. However, for almost his entire stay in the GP2 series, Haryanto was contracted to lower quality teams, limiting his racecraft and abilities. But when Haryanto managed to land on a decent GP2 team, he managed to show off his skills by ending the season while finishing in 4th place. While already having difficulties regarding the quality of his car, Haryanto had to deal with competition that was nothing to scoff at. Some of his opponents were future Formula One drivers such as Pierre Gasly, Stoffel Vandorme, Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson, and Nicholas Latifi to name a few. So, after Haryanto’s journey in GP2, he was offered to participate in the 2016 Formula One World Championship.
According to ESPN, Stephen Fitzpatrick, the then Manor Racing owner said the following about Rio Haryanto, “Rio’s been racing since he first got into a kart at six years old. He’s tenacious on and off the track and made a big impression on last year’s GP2 battle”. While people have mixed opinions about Rio Haryanto, it’s clear that he managed to catch the attention of some of the Formula One teams.
Regarding Haryanto’s Formula One career, it’s fully not fair to judge Haryanto’s racecraft on that abysmal season. Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein were contracted to be the drivers for the Manor Racing MRT for the 2016 season of the Formula One world championship. But, the Manor car of that season was considered to be the worst car of the entire grid. So, using Haryanto’s stint in the Manor car as a justification for his ability to drive is quite unfair. But despite these setbacks. When Rio Haryanto was in the Manor car, he seemed to have better pace on his qualifying, with his race pace lagging far behind. Haryanto was generally behind his teammate for the entire season in terms of pace and standings. While using Haryanto’s racing skill through the Manor car is unfair as every driver will always be limited by his/her car. Such as how it wouldn’t be fair to judge Mick Schumacher’s ability to drive based on Schumacher’s past season with the HAAS car. But after 12 races, Haryanto’s financial backing dried up and he was let go and replaced by Manor Racing MRT with Esteban Ocon. But in hindsight, Haryanto’s replacement could be considered as a relatively decent driver himself as Esteban Ocon turned out to become a Grand Prix Winner.
After his stint in Formula One, Haryanto is now apart of his family’s stationary company, Solo Murni. Apart from working in the stationary industry, from time to time, Haryanto appears as a brand ambassador for different brands and causes.
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However, it’s important to remember that drivers can improve, especially if a driver is not used to the team’s car. Current Formula One Driver, Pierre Gasly was forced to swap to the junior team after only half a season (the same amount of races as Haryanto). Now, Gasly is considered to be a decent Formula One driver with a win and two additional podiums to his name. Haryanto’s replacement, Esteban Ocon managed to achieve a Grand Prix win after not racing in Formula One for a season. And now, Thai Driver Alex Albon will be coming back to Formula One after a year of not driving in the series. So, who knows what Rio Haryanto will do, only time will tell for Indonesia’s first Formula One driver.
Featured photo by Jake Archibald