Despite Helmut Marko’s claim that he would retain his seat if he “beat Pierre Gasly“, in the eyes of many the decision to drop Brendon Hartley at season end was made some time ago, with Toro Rosso having made an approach to McLaren for the services of Lando Norris just a couple of races into the season.
Indeed, with the kiwi effectively being used as a guinea pig this year ahead of Red Bull‘s switch to Honda, not to mention the fact that teammate Pierre Gasly was marked out for greater things, it is unlikely the New Zealander would have been retained had he made it to the podium.
While Hartley didn’t warrant a mention in Toro Rosso‘s press release confirming Alexander Albon as Daniil Kvyat‘s teammate for 2019, Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe and motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto, were keen to pay tribute to the departing kiwi.
“On behalf of Honda, I would like to express my thanks to Brendon for all his hard work this year,” said Yamamoto on social media. “Brendon is always a friendly and charming person who immediately embraced Japanese culture and Honda’s way.
“It gave everyone at Honda so much power and confidence in what we were doing this year after several difficult seasons,” he added. “I particularly remember when he qualified sixth at our home race in Suzuka. That meant a lot to Honda. We will miss him and wish him all the best for the future.”
“Everyone at Honda enjoyed working with Brendon throughout the year,” added Tanabe. “He was very strong on the engineering side, always giving very precise and useful feedback, based on his great experience working with hybrid power units and as a double world champion and Le Mans winner in LMP1.
“That feedback accelerated our development in terms of set-up work, which helped us progress over the course of the year. Thank you Brendon, and we wish you all the very best for the future.”