The young Renault reserve driver Esteban Ocon has done enough to persuade Manor Racing to give him Rio Haryanto’s race seat for the rest of the season.
Despite holding his own against the highly rated Pascal Wehrlein, Haryanto’s funding was always going to be up after half-a-season. The Indonesian driver hasn’t been completely axed or banished from the team; his hopes of rejoining the grid after 2016 are kept alive by being made the reserve driver at Manor.
— Rio Haryanto (@RHaryantoracing) July 30, 2016
The racing director at Manor, Dave Ryan, said,
“Rio has been a much-valued member of our team since January, when we signed a contract with him for this season. Some time ago, his management indicated that they were experiencing difficulties honouring the obligations of that contract beyond the Hungarian Grand Prix. Rio’s team have worked tirelessly to try to resolve that situation with his Indonesian backers and we have supported those efforts as much as possible, including allowing Rio to race in Germany. Unfortunately we reached a point where, in the best interests of the team, we were forced to explore other options for the remainder of the season.
We are very pleased to continue our support for Rio’s Formula 1 ambitions, by offering him a Reserve Driver role for the rest of the current season. We very much hope that he will accept that offer.”
– Dave Ryan
Esteban Ocon will have to hit the ground running with Haryanto in the wings, but if his testing and free practice performances this season are anything to go by, he should possess enough pace to keep Wehrlein working hard.
— Manor Racing (@ManorRacing) August 10, 2016
Having Ocon and Wehlein in the same team has inadvertently transformed Manor Racing into Mercedes’ Toro Rosso. Both young drivers are part of the Mercedes driver academy and their performances at Manor will be available evidence for any Mercedes driver changes in the future.
Ocon is clearly delighted that he will be making his Formula One debut at Spa next time out. He said,
“I’m thrilled that I’ll be making my Grand Prix debut with Manor Racing later this month, and at Spa, of all circuits, which is the next best thing to my home race,” Ocon said when the news was announced. “I’m ready for this exciting step up, thanks to the experience I’ve gained as a Formula 1 Reserve Driver this season.
I’d like to thank Renault Sport F1 Team and Mercedes-Benz for working together to make this happen, and to Manor Racing for the opportunity, which I’m going to grab with both hands.
I’ve visited the Manor Technical Centre already, for my seat fit and to meet with the wider team, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running after the summer break. They’ve done a great job this season and I’m excited that I’ve been tasked with helping them to build on that progress. I can’t wait to get started!”
– Esteban Ocon
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) August 10, 2016
Ocon has been a success in lower Formula. He claimed the 2014 FIA Formula Three championship title with a round to spare. In 2015, the graduation to GP3 went more than smoothly, Ocon picked up the title despite only winning a single race. That’s the sort of consistency that Manor will need for the rest of season if they are aiming to keep the upgraded Sauber team behind them in the standings.