Rio Haryanto made history by becoming the first-ever Indonesian driver in Formula 1 history, and he is now aiming to inspire more of his compatriots to follow in his footsteps.
Haryanto, who races for Manor, also admitted that Formula 1 is starting to gain more traction in his hometown.
With that being said, Haryanto believes it is only a matter of time before another Indonesian driver competes in Formula 1.
“A lot of people in Indonesia are starting to look at Formula One, (because) they now know we have Indonesian drivers,” he told Talk Asia. “I think there will be a lot more interest in Formula One, for sure.”
Reminiscing about how he got involved in racing, Haryanto revealed that his father bought him a go-kart when he was six. From then, his heart was set on one thing, becoming a professional race car driver.
“When I was six, my dad bought me a go-kart and I started practicing on weekends,” he said. “Then I started to get to the races, firstly in the national championship and then moving up to the Asian (series).
“It’s been so many years of racing and, you know, in the end, to get my dream come true as a Formula One driver is a great feeling.”
His passion for racing continued to blossom after he had the chance to meet seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“My dad took me to the Malaysian Grand Prix, and eventually, I was lucky enough to get a picture taken with Michael,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, Haryanto’s F1 future is unclear at the moment, but the 23-year-old thanked his sponsors for shelling out enough money to get him to the halfway point of the season.
Haryanto has been receiving money from the Indonesian government and state-owned oil company Pertamina, but with the funds having dried up, it remains to be seen whether the 23-year-old will see out the rest of the season.
Despite this, Haryanto is grateful that he has had the opportunity to accomplish his dream of competing in Formula 1.
“I am very lucky to have them for support,” Haryanto said. “I can’t thank them enough. Without the … government I don’t think this would have been possible.”