With confirmation of who will be chosen to drive for Manor Race Team in 2016 expected any day now. Will Stevens, Alexander Rossi, Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein are all still believed to be in contention for the honour of piloting one of next seasons Banbury Bullets.
Over the weekend we undertook polls on this very website and through our Twitter account where we asked fellow Manor Fans who they felt should be the lucky men bestowed the honour of racing for the Banbury Babes. We received more than 500 votes in the space of 48 hours so a big thank-you to everyone who took time to participate in this most important of decisions.
The clear winner on both the website and Twitter was Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto. Now we suspect the amount of votes we received from Indonesia may have determined the outcome but who are we to judge. It further highlights Rio’s widespread popularity in Indonesia and shows the potential for sponsorship growth in a country of 250 million people. As the traditional European fan base in Europe is slowly switching off, it is possible that many more millions of new viewers can be drawn to watching F1.
Haryanto comes with a solid track record in the junior formula’s having won races in GP3 and GP2 where last season he finished 4th after winning four races. He is clearly no slouch. He also comes with a healthy amount of financial backing, which would be extremely welcome back in Banbury. We at MRTFB HQ see this as a win-win.
Second in our poll was Alexander Rossi who just edged out Pascal Wehrlein. The American driver drove 5 races for the team in 2015 and faired extremely well against his more experienced team mate Will Stevens (who received a mere handful of votes. Sorry Will!) It is believed that he comes with the least amount of backing of the four contenders. However, a quick and proven American driver in F1 will have money written all over him but it is now up the team to decide if they are going to take that risk. I would suggest that a Californian born driver doing well in F1 would have a host of Silicon Valley companies lining up to sponsor his car and that this is a risk well worth taking.
Whilst our poll is not exactly scientific, we did not have to worry about shy Tories and our social science related degree qualification tells us that this poll does indeed have a level of significance. What is clear from our results and where the votes came from is that there is a level of interest from these nations to have a driver in F1.
Rio Haryanto would be Indonesia’s first ever F1 driver whilst Rossi recently became America’s first F1 driver since Scott Speed left Torro Rosso in 2007. Few doubt that Rossi’s ability far outweighs those of Speed and if given the right machinery he could have a very successful F1 career. On the other hand, viewing figures are dropping like a stone in Germany and the UK due a number of factors which include a move away from terrestrial television to pay channels. Both countries already have world champions on the grid and both Stevens and Wehrlein would struggle to receive even the slightest bit of media attention even in their home countries.
So Manor fans have spoken and we would like to see Haryanto and Rossi driving for Manor next season.
Over to you Steve.