Sport

A long road back to F1 for New Zealand's Brendon Hartley

A long road back to F1 for New Zealand's Brendon Hartley”

STR team principal Franz Tost confirmed to Autosport that Hartley will take a complete new power unit this weekend, and that the decision was made before it was confirmed that Hartley would be making his maiden F1 start in that auto, which was driven by Pierre Gasly in the last two races.

Hartley was a test driver for Red Bull and Toro Rosso nearly a decade ago.

The New Zealander, who last tested an F1 vehicle for Mercedes in 2012, has been drafted into Toro Rosso's Austin lineup by his former backer Red Bull.

Hartley is set to become the first New Zealander in 33 years to race in Formula One.

"When I spoke to people about going back, I always said it was unrealistic, but the dream was always there", he said.

He switched to sports cars and joined Porsche, taking part in this year's victory at the Le Mans 24-Hours race.

"I stopped enjoying it, I wasn't happy".

As if making his F1 debut was a daunting prospect in itself, the 27-year-old will be chasing the pack from the very start, regardless of his qualifying performance.

Nevertheless, Hartley has picked up plenty of racing experience during a four-season stint at the Porsche LMP1 team racing in the World Endurance Championship and will hope he can still impress.

"I didn't know about it much sooner than the press did so it's been quite a whirlwind of a couple of weeks to arrive here".

"He could have easily gone home to New Zealand after he got dropped, and just said, 'It's done, I tried, it didn't work, ' but he's just ground away". I'm pretty relaxed at the moment, all things considered. I like to think I'm ready now.

"But yeah, I was looking at Indycar and I still am".

Asked if he'd sought advice from racing pals in terms of how the cars have changed since 2010, he said: "Yeah, I've obviously. all the friends I have in the sport I've been asking for a bit of advice".

Hartley would seem to expect little in the way of results this weekend, but a good drive could actually complicate his future if it opens the door for more F1 possibilities.

With neither Toro Rosso seat confirmed for next season, Hartley's return may not be a one-off. "I'm not very prepared for this weekend, I haven't [driven] the vehicle, I haven't driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well". But yeah, I was looking at Indy Car and I still am.



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