BRENDON’S F1 DEBUT
What a wonderful country we live in. Just when you think our list of top motorsport stars can’t get any longer, suddenly we have been catapulted into the magic world of Formula One, with the news that Palmerston North’s Brendon Hartley has been offered, and has accepted, a drive with the Toro Rosso team.
OK, it’s a one-off drive (for now) for the 27-year-old, and it’s a big ask for a guy who has not driven a single seater for some time, although, of course he’s been competing in the World Endurance Championship in a super-fast Porsche. He was crowned world champion in that series in 2015, and is leading the 2017 series with two races left.
But back to F1, and word has it that he’s had to learn 50 pages of Toro Rosso’s driver manual in just a couple of days – especially how to navigate his way through the controls on the ultra-high tech. steering wheel – and he wasn’t pegged for much practice in the F1 car before the race itself.
He did get some time in the simulator, but as he has said himself, it’s not like the real thing.
Hopefully his race performance will have convinced Toro Rosso – or even Red Bull – to give him more racing time in F1 so he can follow in the footsteps of his childhood heroes, world champions Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme. How good is Brendon? He started his racing career at the age of six, in karts. It’s a path taken by so many F1 drivers, including the great Michael Schumacher. Karts led to Formula Ford, and after a series of wins there he dived into the deep end by moving to Germany to race a two-litre Formula Renault in the German and European Championships, eventually being crowned champion in the 2007 World Series by Renault.
The following year he moved to Formula three,and that move, and his continuing race-winning performances in Formula Renault, put him in front of a lot of talent scouts, especially Red Bull, which signed him up. His first foray into F1 was back in 2008, as a test driver standing in for the injured Mark Webber.
He became reserve driver for Red Bull in 2009 and 2010, and in 2012 drove 87 laps of testing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team.
So he’s no stranger to F1 race cars. All he needs now is time and opportunity. Go Brendon.