Formula 1

Hartley keen to carry Toro Rosso’s Hungary pace into Belgian weekend

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Max Verstappen (L), Brendon Hartley (C) & Stoffel Vandoorne (R) - Formula 1 - 2018 Hungarian GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Brendon Hartley has said that he hopes to build on Red Bull Toro Rosso’s Honda impressive pace shown in variable conditions at the Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks’ ago with a good performance at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hartley’s Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-bound team-mate Pierre Gasly managed a superb sixth place in both qualifying and the race at the Hungaroring, but the New Zealander was unable to convert a career best grid position of eighth into points – finishing eleventh.

Hartley admitted to this week that the speculation regarding his future that started early in the season helped motivate him to improve and show Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko and Toro Rosso his full capabilities. Gasly’s promotion, announced yesterday, keeps the chances of him retaining his seat for a second full season alive.

Despite the rumours, the 28-year-old revealed that he did manage to take his mind off of Formula 1 matters and recharge after a demanding first half to the year.

“During the break, I made a big effort not to think about racing as it’s important to switch off and recharge,” Hartley said.

“But in the last week, I’ve started thinking about the rest of the season and specifically Spa. It’s been a tough first half of the year, but I’m sure after the break, everyone at Toro Rosso is raring to go for the remaining races.”

Talking about his break, Hartley said the he and wife Sarah headed to Colorado with his ex-Porsche LMP1 Team colleague Mark Webber for some mountain biking. The double World Endurance Champion competed in the gruelling Leadville Trail 100 MTB, a hundred-mile race, finishing a credible 241st out of over 1500 competitors.

“I’d originally signed up last year, however, I didn’t manage to get an entry at the time,” Hartley explained.

“It was incredibly tough, the race started at over 10,000 feet and ended at over 12,000, but it was very satisfying to complete, especially as it pushed me outside my comfort zone.

“It was something I had wanted to do for a while, achieving a goal which also took me away from the F1 paddock. It went really well and since then I’ve felt refreshed after all that time in the mountains and I’m ready to take on the rest of the season, starting with this weekend in Belgium.”

Hartley boasts a good record at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, having taken victories in the British F3 International Series and the WEC in his career.

When asked about his thoughts on the track, Hartley said: “It’s another crowd pleaser, very popular with the drivers and the fans.

“It’s old-school and scenic as it undulates through the forest and it’s a track that we very much enjoy. On top of that, the weather often comes into play and we’ve seen some very exciting races over the years because of the changing conditions. 
“In Budapest, we showed that we had the pace and could do the job in mixed conditions, so that could mean we can have a very positive weekend.”

Despite his experience of the Ardennes-based track, Hartley has yet to drive it in Formula 1 machinery and is relishing the challenge.

“We are all feeling optimistic after showing good pace in Hungary,” he added.

“It’s going to be very nice getting back in the cockpit on Friday, especially as I will be taking on Spa in a Formula 1 car for the first time. It’s one of the most iconic tracks on the calendar and I can’t wait.”

The New Zealander sits nineteenth in the Drivers’ Championship with two points after 12 races.

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