March 24, 2018

Hartley favourite for Toro Rosso seat in Austin

13 October 2017, 11:38 | Joan Schultz

Brendon Hartley poised for Formula 1 debut

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Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley of New Zealand will make his Formula One debut at the US Grand Prix in Austin next weekend for Toro Rosso as a replacement for the absent Pierre Gasly.

Hartley, meanwhile, will become the ninth New Zealander to race in F1, but the first since Mike Thackwell in 1984.

He is part of a trio including fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber and German Timo Bernhard that leads the World Endurance Championship but will be looking for another drive next year after Porsche's decision to withdraw at the season's end.

"This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1", Hartley said.

"I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull and to Porsche", he told the Toro Rosso site. As a former Red Bull junior driver, he was also test and reserve driver for the energy drinks company's two teams that year and 2010.

With Carlos Sainz moving to Renault and Gasly returning to Japan to race in the final round of the Super Formula series, the Faenza-based outfit is bringing back Dany Kvyat but still has a seat on offer for Austin.

"The Austin track is one I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently".

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"What an unbelievable feeling!" said Hartley, who will fill the seat temporarily vacated by France's Pierre Gasly.

The young Frenchman made his debut in Malaysia and competed in last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix alongside Spaniard Carlos Sainz, with Russian Daniil Kvyat dropped for those races.

Hartley, 27, said it was an awesome feeling to be contemplating a debut at last and felt ready for it at a track he already knows from world endurance.

New Zealander Hartley was formerly a Red Bull junior and had previous testing experience with the team in 2009, but his recent career has nearly exclusively involved the World Endurance Championship (WEC), a title he won alongside Mark Webber in 2015.

Less than a year later he began providing testing in Mark Webber's place after the Aussie had suffered an injury, and for the 2009 season was the official reserve driver for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said that Hartley's recent driving experiences, and success, has prompted him to become top choice to step in for Gasly.

"I'm convinced he'll do a fantastic job for us".

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