Messing with the ambitions of a national darling is bound to step on some political toes.
Manor Racing has dropped Rio Haryanto from its race driver line-up for the remainder of this Formula One season. The 23-year old entered F1 from GP2 to join the team and was the first Indonesian at the Grand Prix. Unfortunately, his ultimate hindrance turned out to be a lack of funding to take him beyond his original agreement for 11 races. He’d initially been backed by state-funded petroleum company Pertamina, but he had been hoping to gather enough sponsorship on his own to free him of his reliance on the government. That turned out to be a misstep that ended in his replacement with Esteban Ocon. The Indonesian government released a statement in response.
“The Sports Ministry is disappointed with the decision, as Manor’s racing director Dave Ryan in February promised Rio Haryanto would race a full season in F1. Moreover, Manor’s team director Abdulla Boulsien in June said Rio is part of the team’s long term plan for at least two years.
“We understand the situation in which Manor asked Rio and his management to pay the remaining fees before the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 24 and it turned out that Manor gave another chance for Rio to race until German Grand Prix. Sports Ministry appreciates that.
“We asked to use state budget to finance Rio, but it wasn’t allowed by the lawmakers. The parliament fully supports Rio’s involvement in F1 but using the state budget is not the option.”
Gatot Dewa Broto, government spokesperson
— F1 Fanatic (@f1fanatic_co_uk) August 12, 2016
It’s couched in the politest of terms, but displeasure seeps out of every stroke of the pen here. It’s clear the Indonesian government feels hard done-by by the shafting of their hero here and well, it’s not an unreasonable response. There’s nothing like sports to bring out the patriot in all of us and this is especially true of developing economies that are eager to begin a new chapter of renown on the global stage. Indonesia is certainly one such nation, so to have their Formula One hopes dashed over something like money must be bitter indeed. Not that it’s all over yet though. Having a driver get to F1 at all is a huge deal for a country that hasn’t had much of a racing culture historically. We’d take this as an irritating setback rather than the final word on Indonesia’s fate in F1.