Hart­ley ‘con­fi­dent’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Axed Kiwi For­mula 1 driver Bren­don Hart­ley hasn’t ruled out a re­turn to For­mula 1, although it cer­tainly won’t be next year.

Sacked by Toro Rosso last week after fin­ish­ing the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship 19th out of 20 driv­ers, hav­ing gained just four points, Hart­ley spoke to New­stalk ZB of his exit yes­ter­day morn­ing.

He of­fered some in­sight into his exit, but re­frained from delv­ing deep into the tale, say­ing ‘‘I would love to tell the story one day.’’

‘‘The pol­i­tics I don’t en­joy. It took me some time to get used to the ex­tra me­dia at­ten­tion. I was def­i­nitely pre­pared com­ing into For­mula 1, be­ing in­volved in Porsche and LMP2, but I think the pres­sure def­i­nitely ramped up more than I ex­pected in terms of be­ing un­der the mi­cro­scope a lot more but I got more and more com­fort­able with that dur­ing the sea­son.’’

The 29-year-old hasn’t yet con­firmed his 2019 plans, but said there had been no short­age of in­ter­est.

‘‘I’ve main­tained a re­la­tion­ship with Porsche through all of this, I was with them for four years through two world cham­pi­onships and Le Mans,’’ he said.

‘‘Not the per­fect time of year to be sort­ing out a drive, com­ing into De­cem­ber, but I’ve got a good rep­u­ta­tion and just try­ing to fig­ure out what the right steps are and also what’s go­ing to keep me happy.’’

Toro Rosso, after cut­ting ties with Hart­ley, promptly re­moved his pro­file from their web­site, and made no men­tion of his exit.

Hart­ley ad­mit­ted he was sur­prised when ru­mours were cir­cu­lated early in the sea­son, sug­gest­ing he would be culled after the 2018 sea­son.

‘‘[It] was a big sur­prise to me when I thought I’d signed a long-term con­tract,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m happy with how I han­dled that. I feel un­der the cir­cum­stances other peo­ple could have po­ten­tially cracked and I ac­tu­ally came out much stronger be­cause of it. I fought, I evolved through the sea­son.

‘‘There were ar­ti­cles in the press say­ing ‘he needs to im­prove and beat his team­mate’ and, ac­tu­ally, at the end of the sea­son, I re­ally felt on top of my game, built great re­la­tion­ships with Honda, all the staff at Toro Rosso, and I was con­sis­tently out-per­form­ing my team­mate.’’

Hart­ley made his For­mula 1 de­but in the USA last sea­son as a re­place­ment, be­fore be­com­ing a full­time driver.

His ca­reer-best plac­ing was in Austin, where he fin­ished ninth. He fol­lowed it up by fin­ish­ing 10th at the Ger­man Grand Prix in July. How­ever, he was forced to re­tire five times in 21 races.

It’s clear there’s more to his story but, for now, Hart­ley is just fo­cussing on the fu­ture.

‘‘I would never say it’s [For­mula 1 door] closed. Ten years ago when that door was ef­fec­tively shut, I’ve proven that it’s pos­si­ble to open it again. I’m now in a po­si­tion where I have a Su­per li­cense, I have hand­son For­mula 1 ex­pe­ri­ence, I def­i­nitely didn’t dis­grace my­self and I def­i­nitely wouldn’t say that door is closed.’’

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