Monday, November 08, 2010

Rio Haryanto, RI’s first F1 driver?

Matheos Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 11/08/2010 10:39 AM

After finishing in the top five at the end of the GP3 season, teenager Rio Haryanto will soon become the first Indonesian to try a Virgin Racing Formula One car.

During the Nov. 16 test drive at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the 17-year-old will be one of
the youngest drivers to ever take a test drive on the FIA official Formula One racing circuit. The GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed the same privilege last year along with Tim Sauber when he was only 18.

“The most important thing for me in this test drive is not to be the fastest, but how to gain experience from this rare opportunity,” Rio told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

“What I need is the experience because everything will be very different, especially the force and the aerodynamic system of the car. I am happy there is no pressure for me to be the fastest. Besides, this is not the decisive moment to be or not to be in a Formula One race. It will take a while to move up to Formula One,” Rio said.

But Rio cannot hide his enthusiasm.

“For sure, the finest moment for me in 2010 was not when I won in Istanbul. It was when I got this chance,” he said.

The prestigious prize was offered by the Virgin Racing team at the beginning of the season to the driver who finished highest in the GP3 Series in a Manor Racing car.

Rio is now a member of the UK’s Manor Racing along two British teammates, James Jakes and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, all of whom have finished not only with the best results among their team members, but also in the top five overall leaders. For his results, Rio was granted the rare opportunity after finishing third in the first GP3 Europe Series race in Monza, Italy, on Sept. 12, 2010.

“The good thing with Manor is we keep linking with Virgin F1 cars. It’s not the world best F1 car, but it still a Formula One car, and I’m sure next year the Virgin F1 will be better,” Rio’s manager Piers Hunnisett said.

Rio came to the series having dominated the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific Championship with 11 wins and 14 podiums with the Meritus Racing Team.

Before departing for the GP3 Series in Europe earlier this year, Rio had set a top 10 target, but surprisingly closed the season in the big five from a pack of 30 drivers that took part in the 2010 series.

In Europe, Rio continued his winning streak this year by winning the GP Turkey on May 30, finishing fourth in Valencia, Spain, on June 27, runner up at Silverstone, England, on July 10 and third at Monza, Italy, on Sept. 12.

Rio, who was born in Solo, Central Java, on Jan. 22, 1993, amazed Virgin Racing team principal, John Booth, who is also the founder and the principal of Manor Racing.

“Rio’s achievements are truly great, I do not doubt it, but I didn’t think he could reach this level this soon,” Booth said after the latest Italian GP, as reported on Rio’s official website.

Regarding ambitions to reach the higher levels of racing, such as Formula One, manager Piers Hunnisett said Rio still has a lot time to make his dream come true.

“Everything is possible. The Abu Dhabi test is quite a big jump. I don’t want to introduce anything and [make him] lose confidence. He is only 17, so he is naturally getting stronger. He is still growing — the brain, the muscles. I don’t want to push him too hard too soon,” Hunnisett said, adding that it normally takes three to four years on every stage along the way to Formula One.

“Worst case — 10 years, although some drivers take longer than that. Narain Karthikeyan, an Indian racer, took almost 14 years to get to Formula One, and even Mark Webber took six or seven years, I think,” Hunnisett said.

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