After a upturn in form, Brendon Hartley has said that he is in “a really positive frame of mind” as he fights to retain his seat at Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda for 2019 in the final two races of the 2018 championship.
Hartley has shown marked improvements after a very difficult 2018, qualifying a career best sixth in Japan, scoring points at the United States Grand Prix and showing promise last time out in Mexico – explaining that recent Toro Rosso upgrades have brought the car towards his preferred style. The New Zealander believes that both he and Toro Rosso were unlucky not to take anything away from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez just over a week ago.
“My pace in the last few events has been really fantastic and I had a great points finish in Austin, followed by a strong turn of speed in Mexico, even if it didn’t deliver the result we might have deserved,” said Hartley.
“Therefore, I’m going into the last two races of the year in a really positive frame of mind.”
The 28-year-old will celebrate his birthday on Saturday and hopes to use his prior knowledge of the track, alongside the updated Honda power unit, to his advantage. Hartley is yet to finish a race at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo in either sportscars or Formula 1.
“We will have the latest spec Honda engine on board and we know that it delivers much more performance,” he added. “On top of that, the new aero kit adds some value and seems to suit my driving style.
“I enjoy going to Brazil,” Hartley continued. “It’s an old-school track, with the fans making for a great atmosphere.
“It’s got interesting changes of elevation and camber and a bit of everything. I know the track well having raced there in WEC. Last year in F1, I unfortunately had to retire with a technical problem, so I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend.”
With the threat of a wet weekend in Brazil, Hartley has confidence that the Toro Rosso package will be suitable in adverse conditions and is aiming to increase the four points he has accumulated in 2018 so far.
“The weather can be a factor, producing interesting races at this track in the past, and this year we’ve seen our package goes well in tricky conditions. Whatever the weather, I believe we can be in good shape and we will be targeting some more points.”
Hartley is still facing the possibility of losing his Formula 1 seat to FIA Formula 2 series frontrunner Alexander Albon for next year – with Daniil Kvyat recalled to the Red Bull programme to replace the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-bound Pierre Gasly, after a year away as Scuderia Ferrari‘s development driver.