Brendon Hartley called Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda‘s disastrous Chinese Grand Prix “a long afternoon”.
The New Zealander was barrelled into by his team-mate Pierre Gasly on lap 30 at the Turn 14 hairpin, before retiring with a handful of laps to go with gearbox troubles. Hartley’s clash with Gasly changed the course of the race, summoning the Safety Car that swung the race into the hands of Toro Rosso’s senior team – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
“It was a tough day for us,” sighed Hartley, who clinched his second World Endurance Championship title at the Shanghai International Circuit just five months ago.
Hartley said that the incident with Gasly was down to a fault in communication between the pair. Having been instructed to let the Frenchman through, Hartley wished to execute the swap at the exit of Turn 14. However, Gasly ended up tipping the 28-year-old into a spin whilst damaging his front wing.
“I think the accident with Pierre was down to a miscommunication,” he explained. “The team asked us to swap positions because we were on completely different strategies, so I was going to let him by on the exit of Turn 14 like I did at the start of the race.
“The second time we had to change positions I planned to do the same but I got hit from behind at the apex.”
Hartley bemoaned about poor performance and durability from the ultra-soft Pirelli compound and said that Toro Rosso’s strategic gambles did not have the desired effect.
“At the beginning of the race I had no grip on the ultra-softs so that compromised our strategy.
“Starting near the back of the grid, we tried alternating strategies to give us a better chance but unfortunately that didn’t work.”
“Then towards the end of the race I had to retire because the team saw an issue with the gearbox. In the end, it was a long afternoon.”