Rio Haryanto replaces Will Stevens at Manor to complete 2016 driver grid
British driver Will Stevens has been dropped by Manor for the upcoming Formula One season.
Stevens, whose grand prix career ran for a little more than one season, will be replaced by Indonesian rookie Rio Haryanto, the British-based team confirmed on Thursday.
Haryanto, heavily backed by Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina, joins team-mate Pascal Wehrlein as the final driver on the grid for the new campaign which gets under way in Melbourne next month.
“We are delighted to announce Rio as our second race driver for 2016, ” said Manor’s British billionaire owner Stephen Fitzpatrick. “Rio’s been racing since he first got into a kart at six years old.
“He’s tenacious on and off the track and made a big impression on last year’s GP2 battle. Rio’s huge following in Indonesia is great for the team and for F1.
“They are keen to see him on the grid and we’re confident that we’ll see him enjoying some exciting battles in the year ahead.”
Stevens, 24, had been optimistic that he would be retained by Manor, but the Englishman, who recorded a best finish of 13th at the British Grand Prix, and his former team-mate Alexander Rossi, are now facing up to at least a year in the Formula One wilderness.
Stevens, who made his debut for Caterham at the season-ending grand prix in Abu Dhabi in 2014 before landing a full-time seat with Manor for the ensuing campaign, may now explore his options in America.
Haryanto, a three-time winner in Formula One’s feeder series GP2, will become the first driver from Indonesia to start a grand prix.
The 23-year-old also joins Wehrlein and Briton’s Jolyon Palmer of Renault as the third rookie on the grid for the new season.
“Manor Racing is a team with an exciting vision and ambitious plans,” Haryanto said. “They have produced a great package and I can’t wait to get in the car.
“Melbourne will be a huge moment for me, my country, supporters and fans and I want to thank everyone who’s been with me since I started in single seaters; 2016 is my chance to reward that faith and represent Asia in F1.”
Manor, who made their Formula One debut as Virgin Racing in 2010, have spent their formative years in the sport at the back of the field.
But the addition of Mercedes engines as well as the recruitment of key technical staff – including Pat Fry, formerly of McLaren and Ferrari – could propel them up the grid this season.
Indeed Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckons the team, based out of Banbury in Oxfordshire, could challenge for points in 2016.
“Manor will make a big step and not just because of the engine,” Wolff said. “There is a good bunch of people coming together, impressive individuals with the right budget and attitude.
“I have confidence that the car and driver will have highlights and could be a solid midfield runner.”