Brendon Hartley is amongst those drivers on the Formula 1 grid to call Monaco his home, so this weekend’s race around the streets of the principality is near enough a home race for the New Zealander, and one he is eager to impress in.
The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver lives mere metres from the trackside but after spending his recent years racing sportscars, he did not know when, or even if, he would race at the Circuit de Monaco again, only for the Formula 1 drive to come his way at the back end of last season.
“I’ve lived in Monaco for coming up for three and a half years,” said Hartley. “I actually live on the race circuit and can see the track from my apartment.
“Monaco is one of the highlights of the calendar and living here, there were times when I asked myself if I’d ever see the day that I’d actually get to race it again. New Zealand is definitely my home but I’ve made a home for myself together with Sarah and a great group of friends in Monaco, so this week is going to feel a little bit like a home race.
“It will be nice to wake up in my own bed and have all those routines of being at home.”
Despite it being seven years since he last raced around the streets of Monaco, Hartley says he is looking forward to the event as he bids to add to the solitary point he has earned so far in 2018, which came with a tenth-place finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“It’s a track I love,” said Hartley. “I’ve raced there a couple of times before in World Series by Renault. I had a third and fourth there.
“I think when I was third, Daniel (Ricciardo) won the race. I had a pretty strong race one year coming from P8 to P4, making a few good overtakes on the way.
“I love racing on street tracks so it’s something I’m looking forward to, I’d like to say I know the track pretty well, having been there a couple of times before and it being in my back yard, so to speak.
“The track in Monaco is completely unique. I think it would be hard for them to design a track like that today. It’s got so much history and we all love it. It’s the slowest track on the calendar but I can assure you that in a Formula 1 car it feels anything but slow.”
A lap of Monaco is exhilarating for the New Zealander, with the twenty-eight-old admitting it gives him an adrenaline rush to drive so quickly mere millimetres away from the barriers, and like many other drivers he says it is satisfying to be able to complete a good lap.
“It is a huge adrenaline rush,” added Hartley. “Clipping those kerbs, millimetres from the wall. It’s a huge rush and it’s massively satisfying to get a good lap around there. The track is evolving the whole weekend, starting with a completely dirty track. It’s one of those races that evolves every single lap.
“Come qualifying, when the grip’s going up, that’s a real thrill. It’s definitely a track you need to build up to. To navigate around there, millimetres from the wall on the limit, requires a great deal of confidence behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and it’s what a lot of us drivers look forward to and thrive off.”
After experiencing Red Bull’s Energy Station, Hartley knows there is a great atmosphere at Monaco, and although he will be concentrating on his first race in Monaco as a Formula 1 driver, it will still be obvious to him what is going on in the background.
“It’s definitely a great atmosphere in Monaco,” admitted the New Zealander. “I’ve been on the Energy Station the last couple of years, watching and having a good time.
“I think this year will be an even better time being behind the wheel and, as a driver, you don’t have too much time to get caught up with all the glitz and glam, but still you’re aware it’s all going on in the background.”