JAKARTA • Indonesia's first Formula One driver, Rio Haryanto, may be forced to make an early exit in his rookie season if he fails to quickly raise millions of dollars, an official said yesterday.
His team, Manor Racing, recently sent a letter to the Indonesian government - which has helped support Haryanto - asking for a payment of €7 million (S$10.4 million) to allow him to continue racing, said the country's sports ministry.
The money, which is the outstanding payment from a deal agreed with Manor, must be handed over otherwise the 23-year-old faces being replaced with another driver, according to the ministry.
His major sponsor, state-owned energy company Pertamina, and the government had managed to secure enough for him to race in the first half of the season but officials are now struggling to raise more money.
"We understand Manor's concern but we hope Rio will not be replaced by another driver just because of funding issues," sports ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told AFP.
Broto said the government had done everything it could to secure funding for Haryanto, including talking to a number of potential sponsors, but he was pessimistic about whether more money would be found.
"We don't really see that happening," he said, adding that "we can't promise anything".
There was no immediate comment from Manor.
The next race after the summer break is the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month.
Haryanto signed a one-year deal with Manor in February after his backers managed to secure enough financial support after a long struggle.
However, his F1 career has not gotten off to a stellar start and he is joint bottom in the drivers' standings without any points. Manor are in 10th place in the constructors' standings with one point.
Nevertheless, his fans at home were disappointed about the possibility that he might have to leave the sport before the season ends.
"We were hoping the government would help but the fact is, the parliament and the sports minister cannot find any solution," said Catur Sunaryo, who leads Haryanto's fan club.
Sunaryo said his group was still hopeful Pertamina would help out.