Haryanto, 23, has been attracting plenty of local media attention since Manor Racing signed him for the 2016 F1 season along with Germany's Pascal Wehrlein.
He started racing in a kart at the age of seven and is a lifelong fan of F1 legends Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
“It feels like a dream after more than 16 years of trying,” he said, attributing his breakthrough to the immense support in his home country. “Formula One has always been my ultimate goal; being the first F1 driver from Indonesia really means a lot.”
Formula One is not among the most popular sporting events in Indonesia and local television has not broadcast F1 races live for two seasons because of low ratings, but interest is expected to spike in 2016 with Haryanto on the grid.
Haryanto comes a family of racers.
His father, Sinyo Haryanto, was a national drag race driver in the 1980s, while two of his three older brothers, Roy and Ryan, have competed in Formula Atlantic and the Asian Formula Renault Championship respectively.
The Haryanto family live in the Central Java city of Solo, where they own one of the country's largest stationery manufacturers. Rio's other brother, Ricky - the only sibling who is not a racer - helps run the company.
His mother, Indah Pennywati, said the young Haryanto was often taken to races by his father and began learning to drive a kart at six.
“He loves sports and he loves racing,” she said. “It's what he’s always wanted to do since he was a child.”
Haryanto is known to be shy despite his popularity, especially among Indonesian girls. He struggled to find words during a television talk show appearance with actress and singer Cinta Laura, whom he reportedly fancies, and had to be prompted by the presenter.
He’s very close to his mother, who was always with him at GP2 races, but in F1 he may no longer count on her presence.
“Formula One has 21 races in 21 different countries,” she said, “so I can’t be at all of them.“
Haryanto began his first serious racing season in 2008, when he entered three different series - Formula Asia 2.0, Asian Formula Renault Challenge and Formula BMW Pacific.
In 2009 he won the Formula BMW Pacific championship for Team Meritus, taking 11 wins from 15 races.
In 2010 he moved to Europe to compete in the GP3 Series, where he forged his ties with Manor. He took his first win in the category at Istanbul Park and finished the season fifth overall.
And in 2015, after three years competing in GP2 Series with three different teams, Haryanto joined Campos Racing and won races in Bahrain, Britain and Austria, along with two more podium finishes, ending the season fourth overall.
PUTTING A SPIN ON IT
Haryanto's road to Melbourne has not been smooth in 2016; he spun twice in testing at Catalunya during February.
But Pennywati, who was there, said: “It wasn't a big deal; he wanted to get the most out of himself and the car because he wasn't satisfied after a few laps.”
Haryanto says he’s not concerned about pressure in his home country and doubts over his status as a pay driver, who instead of being paid by the team, brings personal sponsorship with him.
“My aim this year is to be a solid midfield runner together with the team,” he said. “My focus is to race on the track and I prefer to let my results do the talking.”
A devout Muslim, he’s known to have plastered Kuranic verses in the cockpit of his car.
“Just before I go out on the track, I pray for a moment to help me become more focused and relaxed,” he said.
Original source: Dream come true for first Indonesian F1 driver