Rio Haryanto is a hero in his home country.
In February, the 23 year old made history when he became Indonesia’s first Formula 1 racing driver, signing with UK-based Manor team just weeks before the season began.
The only Asian driver on this F1 grid and the third Southeast Asian Formula 1 driver in history, Haryanto’s success has become a source of national pride for many Indonesians.
But after competing in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim last weekend, Haryanto is now fighting to keep his F1 dreams alive.
The Indonesian has run out of sponsorship money, and is urgently seeking sponsors to fund him for the second half of the season.
The buy in
On signing Haryanto, Manor stipulated that the young driver deliver $16.35 million in sponsorship to secure his 2016 season seat.
So far, Haryanto has been supported by the Indonesian government, as well as state-owned oil company Pertamina.
But they have only gotten him halfway through the season.
“I am very lucky to have them for support,” Haryanto tells Talk Asia, of his current sponsors. “I can’t thank them enough. Without the … government I don’t think this would have been possible.”
With a four-week hiatus until the end of August, Haryanto has a short window in which to raise the remaining funding.
Haryanto’s recent performance may hinder his chances of securing funding or seeing financial leniency from his team. The Indonesian racer placed 20th in the German Grand Prix and 21st at the Hungarian.
F1 racing has been a lifelong dream for Haryanto, who says his goal is to become world champion.
“When I was six, my dad bought me a go-kart and I started practicing on weekends,” says the Surakarta-born driver.
Racing runs in the family — his father was a veteran racer in Indonesia, and his two older brothers are also involved in the sport.
“Then I started to get to the races, firstly in the national championship and then moving up to the Asian (series),” he recalls.
“It’s been so many years of racing and, you know, in the end to get my dream come true as a Formula 1 driver is a great feeling.”
A little inspiration
Growing up, Haryanto says his hero was German racing legend Michael Schumacher.
When he was five or six years old, Haryanto came face-to-face with the now seven-time Formula 1 World Champion.
“My dad took me to the Malaysian Grand Prix, and eventually I was lucky enough to get a picture taken with Michael.”
Haryanto hopes he can provide the same kind of inspiration to aspiring Indonesian racers.
“A lot of people in Indonesia are starting to look at Formula 1, (because) they now know we have Indonesian drivers,” he says.
“I think there will be a lot more interest in Formula 1, for sure.”
Watch more of the interview with Rio Haryanto on Talk Asia this month. Air times: August 4 (Thursday), 4:30 a.m. ET, 11:30 p.m. ET; August 5 (Friday), 10 p.m. ET; August 6 (Saturday), 12:30 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. ET; August 13 (Saturday), 7:30 a.m. ET; August 14 (Sunday), 12:30 a.m. ET, 11 p.m. ET.