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.