Hart­ley runs Hamil­ton close in test ses­sion


Kiwi driver Bren­don Hart­ley has made a more than promis­ing start to For­mula One’s pre-sea­son by driv­ing his Toro Rosso car aw­fully close to the same time recorded by de­fend­ing world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton on the track near Barcelona yes­ter­day.

The 28-year-old clocked the eighth fastest time on the first full day of test­ing and was sec­ond only (with 93) to Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo (105) in the num­ber of laps com­pleted in the open­ing run of this week’s four-day ses­sion.

Hart­ley’s Red Bull rac­ing ri­val Ric­cia­rdo also recorded the fastest time – 2.192sec bet­ter than Hart­ley’s quick­est lap of 1mi 22.371sec.

The New Zealan­der’s best time was a frac­tion be­hind Bri­tain’s Hamil­ton, who could only man­age 25 laps in a Mercedes as rain and cold track tem­per­a­tures made con­di­tions poor.

Hamil­ton fin­ished sixth fastest in 1min 22.327sec, less than half a sec­ond quicker than Hart­ley, whose team have opted for a Honda en­gine af­ter en­coun­ter­ing prob­lems with Re­nault.

‘‘The drive­abil­ity of the en­gine is one of the best I’ve driven in a For­mula One car, so it was re­ally pos­i­tive in all as­pects. Ab­so­lutely no com­plaints from me,’’ Hart­ley told re­porters of his Toro Rosso.

‘‘Bal­ance-wise, we were pretty com­fort­able straight away but I still think there’s po­ten­tial to un­lock.’’

There’s one more round of test­ing in Barcelona – a sec­ond four-day ses­sion will be held from March 6-9 – be­fore For­mula One’s first Grand Prix of the sea­son in Mel­bourne on March 25.

Hart­ley, who hails from Palmer­ston North, is ex­pect­ing a healthy fol­low­ing across the Tas­man at the open­ing race of his first full sea­son in For­mula One.

He be­came New Zealand’s first For­mula One driver in 33 years in his de­but last sea­son at the United States Grand Prix in Texas in Oc­to­ber.

‘‘When I was home in New Zealand ev­ery sec­ond of third per­son I ran into told me they were com­ing to Mel­bourne and they’d be there sup­port­ing me with the NZ flag,’’ he said.

New Zealand driver Bren­don Hart­ley made his For­mula One de­but last year.

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