The Hungarian Grand Prix has came and gone and we still don’t know if Rio Haryanto will be in the car for next weekends German Grand Prix.
What we do know is Rio has now completed all of the eleven races which his initial funding paid for and his manager Piers Hunnisett is still frantically searching for the funding that will see Rio complete the season. Hunnisett has told the media that “promises have not been kept” in regards to previous pledges made to Haryanto.
Hunnisett did not name the party involved but we are aware of who they are and will be naming and shaming if indeed Rio loses his seat and the team lose valuable money which they have budgeted for.
Sky Sports Ted Kravitz who has been favorable in his reporting of Haryanto all season also reported that apparently Rio has found new backers but they want to see him compete in the three Asian races. Singapore, Japan and Malaysia so that is when the money is likely to arrive. Ted suggests that Rio could be replaced next weekend and for the remaining European races and return for the Asian races but Hunnissett has refuted that suggesting that it would be too soon to replace him for Germany as it is only one week away.
We have been made aware that Haryanto has made travel plans to be in Hockenheim next weekend and is expecting to race.
As things stand, it is now looking starting to look like Haryanto will not complete the full calendar season with the team and attention will now start to turn to who can replace him. Like the Haryanto situation, it is a complex situation with unexpected names being thrown into the mix in the past few days.
There are two keys points that must be taken into account whilst discussing replacing Haryanto. Firstly, the number two driver at Manor must bring funds to help the team survive. Originally the asking price was believed to be 15 million Euro’s of which Rio has provided half of thus far. If Rio was to leave or only return for the Asian races, the team will have a big hole in their budget that needs filling.
It is also vital to recall that the team can only race 4 different drivers throughout the season and cannot simply swap drivers depending on which market they are in. Purely by introducing a 4th driver of the season leaves the team sweating on a potential injury, sudden illness to either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. With Pascal Wehrlein registered as the official Mercedes reserve driver, he would be first in line for the call up. Per the rules, the team would have to offer one of the other three drivers a race seat which could result in a loss of revenue.
So let’s look at the runners and riders to replace Rio Haryanto.
Fresh off the back of his Indy500 win, Rossi should be able to provide the the required funds to complete the rest of the season. His name value alone now in the States also makes him a valuable commercial asset heading into the American race and he knows the tracks of the Americas after racing their with the team last season.
However, Rossi is currently competing in the IndyCar series which runs until the 18th of September. Rossi might be reluctant to leave an IndyCar season midway through the season unless he has a guarantee of a full time seat in 2017. Sources close to Rossi have reported that he now believes the chances of a full time drive in F1 in 2017 are slim.
The current Manor Racing Development driver has been racking up impressive results in GP2 of late and recently completed a days testing in the MRT05 at Silverstone. We certainly know he has the budget but lacks a Super Licence to compete in Germany but the exact rules of who gets a Super Licence are as clear as mud.
King still has an outside chance of winning the GP2 title and is committed to GP2 until the final round of the season in Malaysia on the 2nd of October so would be free to race for the final few races of the F1 season. Our hunch is that King is in pole position for the second seat in 2017. By then he will have done enough mileage in a F1 car to qualify for a Super Licence. Unless he has unlimited funds, he may be wise to save his money for next season. Don’t be surprised to see him line up in FP1 from America on-wards.
A name familiar to Manor Race fans was thrown into the mix by respected F1 journalist Adam Cooper today. Stevens competed in the 2015 season for the team and was in the running to partner Pascal Wehrlein for the 2016 season until the team gave Haryanto the nod.
Since then, he has competed with the Manor WEC team but has recently broken ties with them and was seen in the Manor Race Team garage at the British Grand Prix. He is known to well connected and potentially could get the budget required by the team. Perhaps not in the same caliber as the drivers mentioned, but would do a decent enough job if the team do turn to him.
The surprise name linked with the team today was Stoffel Vandoorne the former GP2 champion and McLaren reserve driver who is hotly tipped to graduate to the race team next season. Vandoorne is the real deal and many believe alongside Max Verstappen, is the future of F1. He is easily the best driver outside F1 at present and would be an instant asset to the team as they fight to hold on to that all important 10th place in the Constructors Champions
In a lot of ways this does make sense. McLaren or Honda would presumably subsidize the drive in order to give the Belgian driver some extra mileage in a F1 car and a proper chance to evaluate him before making a final decision on replacing Jenson Button for next year. Manor on the other hand will be potentially getting the next big thing and instantly have one of the most exciting line ups on the grid.
On the other hand, we could understand if the teams current technical partner Mercedes objected to such a move. It would give a potential rival teams driver a understanding of their inner working and could be used to his advantaged next season. Mercedes may not also like the idea of their protege being potentially beaten by a McLaren protege and devaluing the investment made in Pascal Wehrlein.
If a deal goes ahead, he could make his debut in his home Grand Prix at Spa setting up an epic battle between him and Pascal for the rest of the season. Vandoorne is currently racing in the Japanese Super Formula and with only one clash in the calendar with F1 could easily continue to his current role in addition to F1.
We have not heard his name linked with the team but a name we are throwing into the ring. Whilst it would be a result to get Vandoorne in at Manor, there are a few complications which may prevent the deal from happening as discussed above. None of the them apply to Estenan Ocon.
Ocon is currently the reserve driver at Renault and is widely expected to join the race team in 2017. However, he is a Mercedes employee and is merely on loan much like Pascal Wehrlein is on loan to Manor.
Putting him in a Manor car for the rest of the season would not only give him vital experience for his full time drive next season but also allow Manor’s technical partners to evaluate their two hot prospects in the same machinery. Mercedes are happy, Renault are happy, and Manor get a new young charger presumably with further discount on their engine for 2017.
All of the above may be pointless speculation but we are a fan blog after all, Rio Haryanto may very well still be in the car after the summer break. It is our understanding that Rio is still confident of finding a solution. The team too also seem keen for Rio to stay if he finds the funds.