Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver Brendon Hartley isn’t concerned about potentially losing his seat at the end of the season, and says that whatever happens he will “hold [his] head high“.
Hartley has had a tough introduction to Formula 1, having been added to the grid part-way through the 2017 season and almost constantly finishing second-best to team-mate Pierre Gasly. His form in the 2018 season hasn’t done much to set the grid alight either, with two tenth-place finishes being just enough to keep him from last in the Championship standings.
Speaking on his future in Formula 1, Crash.net reported the New Zealander as saying that he hopes he “can consolidate the momentum” he has at the moment, and that even if he hasn’t scored the result he wanted, he “[knows] the job [he’s] doing behind the scenes“.
“If Formula 1 finishes at the end of the year or whenever I’ll hold my head high. I know the job I’m doing behind the scenes and I know that I’m giving everything that I can.
“Not everyone always knows the full story, but I feel in a good place and I hope I can consolidate the momentum I’ve had in the last weekends. Even if I didn’t always have the result I actually feel like I was very strong and I hope I can get some more results and more points on the board in the next races.”
Red Bull is famous for its cut-throat decision making – it’s what got Hartley his Toro Rosso seat in the first place – and there was much talk about him losing it around the Monaco Grand Prix. Whilst these questions have died down, Hartley said he doesn’t feel any pressure on losing his seat.
“No not at all. I guess it’s the fact two months ago I was getting asked questions every second if my F1 career was over.
“I guess it changed my attitude a little bit and I feel very strongly about it. A lot of things are out of my control and I feel very content that I am doing the best that I can and hopefully the results will follow.”
Results aside, Hartley’s seat looks much more secure now than it did just a few weeks ago, and this is all thanks to Daniel Ricciardo.
With Ricciardo deciding to leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and put his hopes in Renault Sport Formula One Team for the 2019 season, his Red Bull seat is now open. This throws up a major decision for Red Bull, who are rather lacking in available drivers to call up.
One potential substitute would have been Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz Jr. though he’s just agreed a deal with McLaren F1 Team and thus will be unavailable. This would put Hartley’s team-mate Pierre Gasly in the likeliest position to take over from the Australian, but would leave his Toro Rosso seat open.
Finding a replacement normally wouldn’t be an issue for the Austrian outfit, who have a steady stream of youngsters in teams up and down the racing ladder, however recent developments have thrown that into question.
The summer tests are a chance for teams to test cars and drivers, and are an opportunity for teams test younger drivers in particular. This is something Red Bull were planning to do, by placing GP3 driver Dan Ticktim in the tests, but were told the nineteen year-old didn’t have the necessary points to enter. With not many other options, they eventually had to draft in current Blancpain driver Jake Dennis to test the car.
This lack of available drivers means that, were Red Bull to promote Gasly to the Red Bull team, they would need to find one driver to fill his space. Promoting Gasly and firing Hartley would mean they would need to find two drivers – a hard task considering they struggled to find one for a test.
All the rumours and chat aren’t an issue for Hartley though, who says he learned a lot from former World Endurance Championship team-mate and former Red Bull driver Mark Webber.
“We chat quite a lot. I think all through my career I’ve learned that it’s good to take advice from as many people as you can and when you have someone like Mark who’s happy to pick up the phone or have a meal and discuss everything I try and take full advantage of that. He’s a good friend and always has something interesting to say or advice to give or compare notes.
“I think he saw many things in his time in Formula 1. I was very lucky to have him as a team mate in [WEC] as well. Especially off the track, managing situations, how to deal with the team, mentally how to deal with the pressures that are involved in Formula 1. There’s a lot of advice he can offer and he’s been helpful.
“Even early in the Porsche days it was very clear to me he wasn’t too fazed about what was written or rumours, just focused on the things that were important. Having a larger view, seeing the bigger picture.
“I think I’ve got better and better at that. I think especially this year being under a situation with a bit of pressure, coming from all angles, from the media or whoever, actually it has made me feel a lot stronger and made me realise where my energy needs to be.
“I actually feel really good about the situation regardless of what’s written or not written. It’s made things a lot clearer for me on where my mind needs to be focussed and how I need to feel.”