Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo says that Brendon Hartley fully deserves the opportunity to drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso at this weekend’s Untied States Grand Prix, and a shot at Formula 1.
The Australian, who is good friends with the New Zealander having raced with him whilst coming up through the motorsport ranks, says that Hartley is one of the hardest working people he knows, and has never given up on his dream to drive in Formula 1, despite a number of setbacks.
Hartley will stand in for Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly, who himself was brought in as a replacement for Daniil Kvyat at the last two rounds of the season, whilst the young Frenchman competes for the title of the Super Formula Series in Japan.
Although it has been a long time coming, Ricciardo told motorsport.com that he was over the moon to hear the news that Hartley had been given a second bite at the cherry with Red Bull.
“We grew up pretty much together, and I think as far as racing mates go, I think he’s probably the best mate I’ve had over the years.
“When I found out about it, I was super stoked for him. We are all competitors, but I feel like we’ve been through quite a bit, him in particular.
“He’s been there and nearly fallen to the bottom, like racing old historic cars, just racing to race and race because he loved it. To get the Porsche drive was kind of big news, and to be back in this position was pretty huge.”
“It will probably sound like I’m a bit biased because I’m a friend, but as far as the older drivers go, he’s deserving.
“He could have easily gone home to New Zealand after he got dropped, and just said, ‘It’s done, I tried, it didn’t work,’ but he’s just ground away.
“His work ethic has been really impressive, and he’s made it happen. I really believe he 100 percent deserves this opportunity, and now it’s up him to then really take it to the next level.”
After being dropped from the Red Bull junior programme back in 2010, when he failed to take a single victory during his Formula Renault 3.5 Series campaign that year, Hartley remained in single-seater racing, before moving onto sports cars, including guest stints at some rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012.
Though success in single-seater’s escaped him, he was beginning to come into his own in sports cars, particularly WEC. A promotion to the Porsche works team in 2014 saw his career really take off, as he knocked out fastest laps for fun on many occasions during qualifying. He did not have to wait too long to enjoy champion status with the German squad, when alongside team-mates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, the title was his in 2015,. And he looks set to do the same again in 2017 with Earl Bamber, and Bernhard.
Hartley also added the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans to his victory list this year, as well as Petit Le Mans, and it is this versatility along with his never give up attitude, that Ricciardo feels will see the New Zealander perform well at this weekend’s grand prix.
“At the end of the day he’s always been good, he’s always been quick, and able to adapt really quickly. He’s driven all kinds of cars the last few years.
“He won Petit Le Mans recently. So he’s able to adapt, and I think it’s really him, if he’s got the confidence and calmness about him, then he’ll be fine.
“He’ll figure it out as well. For sure, if he asks me a thing or two, I’d be happy to give him encouragement.”