Brendon Hartley knew before his first Formula 1 Qualifying session that he would be starting from the back of the grid due to engine penalties, but the New Zealander still put in a good performance, even though he was eliminated in Q1.
The New Zealander was drafted in to the Scuderia Toro Rosso team this weekend in place of Pierre Gasly, and has been learning the STR12 throughout, and he admitted that getting the tyres to work in Qualifying was still tricky for him on Saturday.
However, Hartley is much more confident about his chances on Sunday, with his long race pace and energy saving during Free Practice impressive, and he hopes to move forward from his starting slot.
“A difficult qualifying session – still a lot to learn! – but I’m smiling!” said Hartley. “These cars are incredibly fast and awesome to drive and when you go out on low fuel and new tyres it’s such a peak in performance!
“I didn’t quite nail the session, but I can’t forget that I’ve been thrown in the deep end here, so I’m pretty satisfied with how the weekend has gone so far. My long-run pace is pretty good – I guess that’s what I know how to do well anyway from endurance racing!
“I feel quite confident managing tyres, so I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. I haven’t done a standing start in a long time, but hopefully I can manage a clean start and see what we can do after that.”
Hartley admitted he has been trying to downplay the importance of this race weekend, but the realism is that he is set to start his first Grand Prix on Sunday, and the butterflies still remain in his stomach.
“I’m really enjoying my Formula 1 debut!” said Hartley. “There’ll be a few butterflies in my stomach tomorrow for sure, but I’ve been pretty relaxed all weekend – I’m trying to tell myself it’s just another race, even though I know it’s obviously not…it’s really my F1 debut!
“But I’ll sleep well tonight and push as hard as I can. I’m excited to see how far we can move up the grid tomorrow!”