Brendon Hartley opens up on Toro Rosso exit

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 6 December 2018, 10:20AM
Hartley was coy on the reasons for his dumping by the Formula 1 side. (Photo / Getty)

Kiwi Formula One driver Brendon Hartley has opened up about his exit from Formula One for the first time.

Hartley was sacked by the Toro Rosso last week when the team announced Alexander Albon, who finished third in Formula Two this year, would be the new driver to team up with Daniil Kvyat for the 2019 season.

With Hartley's 2018 teammate Pierre Gasly promoted to the Red Bull Formula One team there seemed a chance the Le Mans winner and World Endurance champion would race for a second full season.

But after finishing the season in 19th on the drivers' championship standings out of 20 drivers with just four points and a ninth-placed finish at the US Grand Prix his best of the season, the 29-year-old's departure wasn't a huge surprise.

"I'm in a pretty good place. I've definitely been better," Hartley told the Mike Hosking Breakfast.

He told Hosking he's in the process of working out a new drive for 2019 but it won't be in Formula One.

"Still trying to figure that out. I've maintained a relationship with Porsche through all of this, I was with them for four years through the two world championships and Le Mans. My phone has been glued to my ear over the last week, a lot of emails. Not the perfect time of year to be sorting out a drive, coming into December but I've got a good reputation and just trying to figure out what the right steps are and also what's going to keep me happy.

"You will definitely see me doing something next year but it won't be Formula One."

"I would never say it's closed. 10 years ago when that door was effectively shut, I've proven that it's possible to open it again. I'm now in a position where I have a Super license, I have hands-on Formula One experience, I definitely didn't disgrace myself and I definitely wouldn't say that door is closed. "

Toro Rosso's handling of Hartley's departure seems on par with the team's performance in Formula One this season. No mention has been made of the Kiwi's exit on the official Toro Rosso website with his profile quickly removed.

Hartley wasn't keen to open up of the reported dramas behind the scenes at Toro Rosso.

"I would love to tell the story one day," he told Mike Hosking.

"The politics I don't enjoy. It took me some time to get used to the extra media attention. I was definitely prepared coming into Formula One being involved in Porsche and LMP2 but I think the pressure definitely ramped up more than I expected in terms of being under the microscope a lot more but I got more and more comfortable with that during the season."

Hartley opened up about his sacking saying he felt he'd done enough to continue his role at Toro Rosso.

"There were rumours very early in the season which was a big surprise to me when I thought I'd signed a long-term contract. Came off the back of a world championship, a Le Mans win and after just two or three races there were rumours and a lot of questions being asked around my immediate future.

"I'm happy with how I handled that. I feel under the circumstances other people could have potentially cracked and I actually came out much stronger because of it. I fought, I evolved through the season. There were articles in the press saying 'he needs to improve and beat his teammate' and actually and the end of the season I really felt on top of my game, built great relationships with Honda, all the staff at Toro Rosso and I was consistently out-performing my teammate. I'm really proud of how I handled the situation and how I improved during the season.

"It was particular easy after seven years away from single-seater racing but I was very comfortable with the job I was doing at the end of the year. What I will say is Formula One is very complicated, there's a lot of money involved, politics and some of the reasons why drivers stay or leave isn't always in your control or of reasons for pure performance. In any case I left the paddock with my head held high. I knew I'd given it my best shot this year. I knew that I'd stepped up to the plate when I needed to."

"There are so many fantastic experiences I take away from the season. Driving the fastest Formula One cars that the world has seen, maybe the fastest ever. There's a lot to be proud but I did feel like I had more to give in Formula One."

Hartley made his Formula One debut last season at the USA Grand Prix, replacing Gasly for the drive before becoming a fulltime replacement for Kvyat.

He recorded his first Formula One point at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April with a 10th placing. Hartley qualified second to last but moved into the top 10 when seven drivers failed to finish the race. The last time a New Zealand driver earned a Formula One point was Chris Amon at the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix.

Hartley followed that up with a 10th at the German Grand Prix in July and a career-best ninth in Austin. He had five retirements from his 21 races this year including a scary crash at the Canadian Grand Prix when he collided with Williams-Mercedes driver Lance Stroll and was pushed into a wall on the opening lap.

It seems unlikely that Hartley will find a drive at another Formula One team next season. All the driving spots are filled except for one with Lance Stroll expected to be announced as the second Force India driver alongside Sergio Perez.


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