Formula One: Rio Haryanto's F1 return in doubt without oil giant's backing

Indonesian race driver Rio Haryanto.
Indonesian race driver Rio Haryanto.PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA • Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto has suffered a major setback in his bid to return to Formula One this season, after state-owned energy company Pertamina announced it was ending its sponsorship.

"This year there will not be a continuation of participation by Pertamina in F1," spokesman Wianda Pusponegoro said in a statement yesterday, noting that Pertamina could not meet a sponsorship deadline.

"Of course we regret this very much, but we have already made maximal efforts for Rio and Indonesia," she said.

Haryanto, the first Indonesian to race in Formula One and only Asian driver on the grid last season, said in a text message that he had "not yet confirmed" his position and hoped to reach a decision as soon as possible.

"We are still working on a plan to keep Rio in Formula One," Haryanto's manager, Piers Hunnisett, said.

"People in the Formula One world felt he did a good job and he deserves to be there," he said, adding that it would be a "great shame" if Haryanto missed out on a seat this season.

The only likely vacancies still open are the two Manor seats and there is lingering uncertainty about that team's future ownership.

Swiss-based Sauber, who like Manor expect their drivers to bring financial backing, are expected to sign German driver Pascal Wehrlein, who is backed by Mercedes, alongside Swede Marcus Ericsson.

Haryanto started 12 races for Manor last season, alongside Wehrlein, before being replaced by French rookie Esteban Ocon after the German Grand Prix in July.

Ocon has since moved on to Force India.

Pertamina has been Haryanto's constant backers in the costly sport, and Hunnisett said last month that, while he was looking for other non-government backers, he was confident that the oil and gas company would continue to sponsor Haryanto.

Pertamina's chief executive Dwi Soetjipto told a news conference last February that it was contributing €5 million (S$7.55 million) to help secure Haryanto's 2016 seat at Manor.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Haryanto's F1 return in doubt without oil giant's backing'. Print Edition | Subscribe