While Hartley has maintained that he is on a long-term deal with Red Bull, the only driver confirmed at the energy drink giant’s junior outfit for next year is the returning Daniil Kvyat, brought in to replace Pierre Gasly.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko and team boss Franz Tost have been non-committal over Hartley’s future, and Anglo-Thai racer Albon has now emerged as frontrunner for the seat – provided Red Bull succeeds in getting him released from his Nissan Formula E deal.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the recent developments ahead of the United States Grand Prix, Hartley insisted “nothing’s changed” on his end.
“I guess I’ve said it already before, from my point of view I have a contract for next year and anything else is better to discuss with someone from Red Bull,” he said.
“Obviously my position in the team was already questioned after three races into the start of the season, which is a pretty shitty position to be in. But I feel like I’m stronger because of it, and for the rest I don’t know.
“Definitely I’ve changed my attitude a bit, [became] more focused in a selfish way, managing my time and just keeping my mind on points that move the stopwatch.
“In an ideal world, you’d have full support, from a contractual point of view, and you’d just be able to focus on doing your job, but it’s Formula 1, it’s not always like that.”
Hartley feels that he has coped well with the speculation that has persisted through much of his 2018 campaign, after a rocky start that was believed to have prompted Toro Rosso to make an enquiry over McLaren’s Lando Norris.
“Like I said before, after three races into the season, when you’ve signed a long-term deal, to have to answer questions about your immediate future, it’s not really the ideal situation to be in, for any sportsperson.
“But I’ve had to deal with it, and I feel like I’ve dealt with it well, and i feel like I’m performing very well, even if I maybe haven’t scored in the points as much [as I would’ve liked].
“There’s definitely been times I’ve been a bit unlucky. With all things being equal, I’ve definitely shown I can do the job.”
A move for Albon would leave Hartley without a place on the 2019 F1 grid.
Queried on a hypothetical World Endurance Championship comeback and whether he would be returning as a stronger driver in such a scenario, Hartley – who has two WEC titles and a Le Mans 24 Hours win to his name – said: “Yes. It helps to have full support from the team, but I’m definitely a stronger person and I’ve learned a lot in the space of a year in Formula 1.”
Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso STR13, arrives on the grid
Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images