March 22, 2018

Kiwi Hartley gets 'dream' Toro Rosso start

13 October 2017, 11:41 | Sandy Nunez

Brendon Hartley poised for Formula 1 debut

Pierre Gasly to Miss US Grand Prix for Super Formula Finale

Brendon Hartley will become New Zealand's first Formula One driver in 33 years at next week's U.S. Grand Prix after being called up by Toro Rosso on Friday as replacement for French rookie Pierre Gasly.

Hartley was crowned World Endurance Champion alongside former grand prix victor Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard in 2015 and leads this year's title race with three rounds remaining.

Hartley says "this opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1".

After being named official reserve driver for Red Bull and Toro Rosso in 2008, and testing twice for the latter, a move to British Formula 3 followed, where he finished third ahead of Sergio Perez and Marcus Ericsson.

As a former F1 test driver for STR, parent team Red Bull, and Mercedes, Hartley chased the grand prix dream through 2013, but turned his attention to global sports auto racing once it became apparent transitioning to a full-time ride was not in the cards.

Hartley, 27, said it was an unbelievable feeling to be contemplating a debut at last and felt ready for it at a track he already knows from world endurance.

The 27-year-old won at Le Mans with Porsche this year and is competing in the World Endurance Championship, a sportscar title he won in 2015.

"The Austin track is one I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently".

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According to Autosport, Gasly will return to Super Formula next week to battle for the title with the Frenchman trailing Hiroaki Ishiura by half a point.

The other vehicle will be driven by Daniil Kvyat, who returns after being dropped in favour of Gasly two races ago.

It seems, though, that a decision has been made, as Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost is now looking for another driver to fill Gasly's seat.

Kvyat was replaced by Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion, at the Malaysia and Japanese GPs but with Carlos Sainz moving to Renault four races early, the Russian will make his return at Austin.

The New Zealander has previous Formula 1 experience when he was reserve driver for both the Faenza-based outfit and Red Bull Racing back in 2009-10, as well as conducting simulator development work with Mercedes in 2012 and 2013. We are really happy to have him back in our team.

Mike Thackwell was the last driver from New Zealand to start an F1 race at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix.

"I'm convinced he'll do a fantastic job for us".

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