Will the Hungarian Grand Prix be Rio Haryanto’s last race of the season?

Rio

There has been a lot of conflicting information of late regarding Rio Haryanto’s future with the team.    We’ll try clear it up as best as I can.

What we do know is that Rio Haryanto’s manager Piers Hunnisett is on record as confirming that the Rio had deposited enough money into the teams account to race in the first 11 races of the season.  With the 11th race taking place in Budapest next weekend it has led to a frenzy of misinformation from not only the usual copy and paste monkeys but from a few established media outlets too.

Rio’s funding is a complicated mater with a supposed 15 million USD dollars coming from a mixture of family backing, donations from wealthy Indonesian business men and government backing.  It is the later that is proving to be the issue.  After signing a letter of intent to the team, the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sport have been rather reluctant in coming up with the money and it appears to us, are keen to pay as little money as possible without losing face.   Hence Rio’s crowdfunding attempts and Manor Team Principal Abdulla Boulsien’s visit to Jakarta last month.  However, we do think that Rio will continue after Hungary for a few reasons.

Rio’s pace has been steady since his debut in Melbourne, his single lap qualifying pace means he is currently matching the hotly tipped Pascal Wehrlein.    He is a steady pair of hands and brings the car home with Silverstone being his first self inflicted retirement of the season and he was not the only one guilty of that.   Whilst the team have a hot charger int the form of Pascal Wehrlein, who has brought home a point in the only opportunity presented to him, they have a team mate who keeps him more than on his toes and one who does not bin the car.   He also brings in millions of dollars to the team and helps keep it a float.  As a number 2 pay driver.  Rio more than ticks every box you could hope for in a driver in that position.

The team really don’t need to replace Rio.  They are ahead of Sauber whom only seem to be going backwards.  There is no need to take the risk of forsaking a few more million dollars from a pay driver and hire a proven talent in a gamble to ensure 10th in the Championship.   If we were behind Sauber and say, Stoffel Vandoorne was available for a few races then it is a completely different kettle of fish.    But they aren’t and he’s not.

Who then realistically is faster and more experienced than Rio AND brings in money?   Not too many names spring too mind.    Pastor Maldondo perhaps but he may have already burnt that bridge. Moreover, do you really want to swap a driver who always brings the car home for Crashtor?   I think not.

Then there are the two reserve drivers for the team, Alexander Rossi and Jordan King.    One is arguably faster than Rio and has a little sponsorship behind him to add to his previous spell with the team but is currently tied up in IndyCar for the foreseeable future.  Sources close to Rossi have reported that he now thinks his chances of an F1 drive this or next season are slim.   It’s a shame but such is the way of F1.    King has GP2 commitments but would be free from Singapore on-wards and we certainly know he has the money.  It’s possible we may see either of them in the car come the USA GP but for the immediate future it seems Rio does not have too many worries.   2017 may be another matter with King starting to put in some decent GP2 results.  It is also worth nothing that his Dad probably did not invest in the team in 2014 out of the goodness of his heart.

So here is how we see this playing out.  The Indonesian Government will come up with the money.   They will lose too much face if they are the sole reason why their number 1 sports star is no longer in F1.    They may not come up with all the money they promised and it’s conceivable that Rio may not compete the entire season.  Conversely, they are aware that there are not too many other options for the team who may not be able to afford to turn down whatever offer they received from Indonesia, even if it is less than they had been promised.

It’s a game of brinkmanship and it will be interesting to see who blinks first but we are fairly confident Rio will still be in the car once the season resumes in Spa.