Hartley: I have unfinished business in F1

Having been dropped by the Red Bull Driver Programme mid-2010, a move which cost him his test and reserve roles with both the company’s F1 teams and his Formula Renault seat, Brendon Hartley knows from personal experience just how ruthless the Austrian company can be when it comes to hiring and firing.

Just two years later, while still licking his wounds, he was picked up by Mercedes, for whom he mostly carried out simulator duties for the F1 team, and later that year made his first foray into Sports Cars.

The rest is history, the kiwi going on to win two WEC titles and the Le Mans 24-Hours, only to find himself back in F1 after being recruited by Toro Rosso as a replacement for another driver who knows just how fickle an employer Red Bull can be, Daniil Kvyat.

On the back of his four outings for the team in late 2017, Hartley was retained for 2018, however, just a couple of races into the season it emerged that the Faenza outfit was making overtures to recruit Lando Norris as the kiwi’s replacement.

As the season progressed, especially once Red Bull had confirmed it would be switching to Honda power in 2019, the New Zealander appeared to be used as a guinea pig, enduring numerous grid penalties as Toro Rosso and Honda sought to improve the Japanese manufacturer’s power unit in readiness for ‘big sister’.

Helmut Marko, when asked if Hartley would be retained, merely said that to do so the kiwi would have to beat his precocious teammate, Pierre Gasly, though all things considered the youngster had to do this with one hand behind his back.

While it came as no surprise to see Toro Rosso drop Hartley in favour of Alexander Albon, some of the New Zealander’s recent criticism of the team clearly wasn’t well received, the youngster not seemingly worthy of a “good luck” or “thanks” in the press release announcing the Thai driver’s recruitment as his replacement.

Today however, Honda paid tribute to Hartley, technical director Toyoharu Tanabe and motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto, both hinting that they weren’t entirely happy to see the kiwi discarded.

Tonight, Hartley responded, and if nothing else his reference to “almost all of the 500 strong Toro Rosso staff”, speaks volumes.

“I left the circuit on Sunday with my head held high,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m very proud of my story and my journey so far but I’m left feeling I have unfinished business in F1. For the moment, that has been put on hold.

“I’ve hit speed bumps before and I am a strong believer that tough situations make you stronger. It also helps that I have a great NZ support crew, friends, family and wife.

“I also want to thank my trainer Rich and almost all of the 500 strong Toro Rosso staff who I have stood beside and have enjoyed working with this season, all of the engineering team, the mechanics, marketing, PR, logistics, hospitality crew, factory staff and of course all at Honda Racing.

“I really do appreciate the support I have received from fans across the globe this year, I still have plenty more pages to write in my story and I will make the most of the opportunities in the next chapter.”

Check out our Tuesday test gallery from the Yas Marina, here.