Brendon Hartley is set to make his Formula 1 debut, with Toro Rosso, at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, eight years since his dream of racing at the pinnacle of the sport faded – he admits that at the time as a Red Bull driver he was not ready to step up, but now he says he is.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Harley revealed, “One of the first calls I made was to Helmut Marko at Red Bull and I said if there was ever an opportunity I am ready now – I wasn’t eight years ago. He got the message but I didn’t hear anything for three or four months and to be honest this came out of the blue this last week.”
Hartley, a World Endurance Championship (WEC) World Champion and Le Mans 24 Hours winner, flew to Texas from Fuji where he finished fourth in the WEC round where he races for the Porsche. He will be doing a Toro Rosso seat fitting and familiarising himself with the gizmos that he will need to be master in the next few days.
He admitted, “I am a little unprepared going into next weekend without ever testing the car but on the other hand I absolutely feel ready.”
In 2010, Hartley was a rising star in the Red Bull young driver programme but things went awry and he was ditched, “It was a long time ago – 2010 was when I was cut from the Red Bull junior development program.”
“I went through a tough time. To put it bluntly I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t mature enough. At that point in my life I was enjoying my racing. For having gone through that I am a lot stronger.”
“I am 27, so I am not as young as some of the other guys that are entering Formula 1 but I have such a wealth of experience from being in a program at Porsche and having teammates like Mark Webber and Timo [Bernhard].”
Prior to this unexpected opportunity Hartley was seeking a drive in the Indycar series for next year and admits, “I didn’t 100 percent see this one coming. When Porsche announced they were stopping LMP1 I started trying to figure out where I would be next year. I am as ready as I can be for an unexpected opportunity like this.”
“I will do my very best and try not to think about what could be and what is at stake,” he declared.
What could be at stake is a full-time drive with Toro Rosso, in 2018, should he seize the moment and make a good impression at Circuit of the Americas this weekend.