Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda‘s Brendon Hartley says he feels he has been racing without the ‘full support’ of his team from as early as the third race of the season.
The former Red Bull junior driver returns to the Circuit of the Americas, the track where twelve months ago he made his Formula 1 debut, this weekend, but has criticised the support of the team who gave him his break and claims their negativity has made him ‘stronger’.
Meanwhile, rumours circulate in the press that FIA Formula 2 driver Alexander Albon may take his seat for 2019, despite Hartley initially signing a contract to take him beyond the winter.
“I’ve said it already before, from my point of view I have a contract for next year and anything else is better to discuss with someone from Red Bull,” said Hartley to Motorsport.com. “Obviously my position in the team was already questioned after three races of the season, which is a pretty s**t position to be in.
“But, I feel like I’m stronger because of it.”
Hartley admits he would prefer having the full backing of his team but he feels he has been focusing his time on improving his driving. He acknowledges he has not scored as many points as he would like, but he equally feels luck has not always been on his side.
“I’ve definitely changed my attitude a bit. I am more focused in a selfish way, managing my time and just keeping my mind on points that move the stopwatch,” said the New Zealander. “In an ideal world, you’d have full support, from a contractual point of view, and you’d just be able to focus on doing your job, but this is Formula 1 and it is not always like that.
“But I’ve had to deal with it, and I feel like I’ve dealt with it well, and I feel like I’m performing very well, even if I haven’t scored in the points as much as I maybe would have liked. There has definitely been times where I have been a bit unlucky. With all things being equal, I’ve definitely shown that I can do the job.
“While it helps to have full support from the team, I’m definitely a stronger person and I’ve learned a lot in the space of a year in Formula 1.”
Hartley and his team-mate Pierre Gasly are both poised to pick up grid penalties and look likely to occupy the back row for Sunday’s 2018 Pirelli United States Grand Prix.