MAKING HISTORY: Rookie Rio Haryanto will become the first Indonesian Formula 1 driver after joining British team Manor. AFP / Adek Berry
Melbourne, Australia - Indonesian trailblazer Rio Haryanto said Thursday he is ready for a first tilt at Formula 1 in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, on the back of just four days testing in his new Manor car.
The 23-year-old, who will become Indonesia's first F1 driver, will make his grand prix debut after signing a one-year deal last month with Manor Racing, previously known as Marussia.
Haryanto said at his first official F1 media conference: "There's been a tremendous response back home. Obviously to be able to compete in Formula 1 is a great thing and I'm very proud and I'm sure the whole nation is proud to have me in F1.
"I'm new to F1, so there are a lot of things to learn and my expectation is to try and learn as quick as possible and try to build a great relationship with the team... we'll see how it goes in the race."
It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Haryanto as he gets accustomed to what is required to compete against the superstars of F1, but he said he was happy living his dream.
He said: "This has been my dream for such a long time and I'm enjoying every minute, it's an incredible time for me and my country. The support means so much to me so I want to include my fans every step of the way."
Haryanto, who has been with Manor Racing since 2010, driving in GP3 in Europe, said he covered plenty of ground in his pre-season testing in Barcelona.
He said: "It was only four days but we packed a lot into that space of time.
"We covered pretty much everything; single lap, race simulation, qualifying simulation, practice starts, practice stops, plus a whole list of other race weekend procedures.
"Of course, you would always like more time to prepare, but I'm ready."
Haryanto, who has his family with him to help him relax in Melbourne, said he was focusing on getting everything right for his first F1 grand prix.
"I want to take it all in, as it's a weekend I'll remember for the rest of my life," he said.
"On the track, I'm looking forward to my first qualifying -- and the race of course -- but I think the qualifying format is going to be interesting. It's something new for everyone.
"Then lining up on the starting grid is going to be pretty special, but there's a lot to do before then!"
Haryanto and his team had been locked in lengthy negotiations with Manor for months as they struggled to drum up the financial support needed to secure an F1 berth.
His campaign got across the line when funding was secured from the Indonesian government and the country's state-owned oil company, as well as his major sponsor, Pertamina.
Haryanto's manager Piers Hunnisett said he was confident the young driver would attract further sponsorship from Indonesian companies throughout his F1 debut season, where he will compete in every race.