(Reuters) – French teenager Esteban Ocon will replace Rio Haryanto at Manor Racing for the rest of the season after the Indonesian driver failed to secure the financial backing needed to retain his seat.
The British-based Formula One team said in a statement on Wednesday that Ocon, 19, will make his race debut in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 28 alongside Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein.
Haryanto, his country’s first Formula One driver, was offered the role of reserve for the remaining nine races.
“(Manor) has taken the decision to terminate Rio Haryanto’s race contract after he was unable to meet his contractual obligations,” the statement said.
Haryanto, who has been backed by Indonesia’s state-owned oil company Pertamina, made his race debut with Mercedes-powered Manor at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March.
However, his contract depended on raising substantial further funding.
“Some time ago his management indicated that they were experiencing difficulties honouring the obligations of that contract beyond (last month’s) Hungarian Grand Prix,” said Manor’s racing director Dave Ryan.
“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.”
While Ryan hoped Haryanto would accept the reserve driver offer, there was no immediate word from the Indonesian’s management.
Haryanto failed to score a point in the season’s first 12 races for the smallest team on the starting grid who are 10th overall in the standings after Wehrlein finished 10th in Austria in July.
Ocon has a contract with Mercedes, like Wehrlein, and has been racing for them in the German Touring Car (DTM) series while also carrying out a Formula One reserve role for Renault.
The highly-rated youngster won the FIA F3 championship in 2014 and the GP3 series last year.
“He is clearly one of the rising stars of F1,” Ryan said.
Ocon said he was thrilled to be given his chance to debut at Spa, which almost amounted to a home race for him, and thanked Mercedes and Renault for making it happen.
“I’ve visited (Manor) 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,” he added.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)