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.’’