Hartley surprised by early rumours at Toro Rosso

They say ‘once bitten, twice shy’, and having been previously dumped by Helmut Marko and the Red Bull machine, perhaps Brendon Hartley should have learned from the experience, after all the team has history.

However, out of an F1 drive and yet to find an alternative for 2019, the New Zealander admits to being surprised by the shenanigans at Toro Rosso, even though one of the Faenza outfit’s replacements has been dumped two or three times.

I would love to tell the story one day,” he told Mike Hosking of New Zealand’s Radio Sport.

“The politics I don’t enjoy,” he continued. “It took me some time to get used to the extra media attention. I was definitely prepared coming into Formula One, being involved in Porsche and LMP2, but I think the pressure definitely ramped up more than I expected in terms of being under the microscope a lot more but I got more and more comfortable with that during the season.”

“There were rumours very early in the season which was a big surprise to me when I thought I’d signed a long-term contract,” he said, referring to the team’s approach to Lando Norris just a couple of races into the season. “(I) came off the back of a world championship, a Le Mans win and after just two or three races there were rumours and a lot of questions being asked around my immediate future.

“I’m happy with how I handled that,” he added. “I feel under the circumstances other people could have potentially cracked and I actually came out much stronger because of it. I fought, I evolved through the season.

“There were articles in the press saying ‘he needs to improve and beat his teammate’ and actually by the end of the season I really felt on top of my game, built great relationships with Honda, all the staff at Toro Rosso and I was consistently out-performing my teammate. I’m really proud of how I handled the situation and how I improved during the season.

“It wasn’t particular easy after seven years away from single-seater racing but I was very comfortable with the job I was doing at the end of the year.

“What I will say is Formula One is very complicated, there’s a lot of money involved, politics and some of the reasons why drivers stay or leave isn’t always in your control or for reasons for pure performance. In any case I left the paddock with my head held high. I knew I’d given it my best shot this year. I knew that I’d stepped up to the plate when I needed to.”

“There are so many fantastic experiences I take away from the season… driving the fastest Formula One cars that the world has seen, maybe the fastest ever. There’s a lot to be proud but I did feel like I had more to give in Formula One.”

Asked about his plans for 2019 and beyond, he admitted: “Still trying to figure that out… I’ve maintained a relationship with Porsche through all of this, I was with them for four years through the two world championships and Le Mans.

“My phone has been glued to my ear over the last week, a lot of emails. Not the perfect time of year to be sorting out a drive, coming into December but I’ve got a good reputation and just trying to figure out what the right steps are and also what’s going to keep me happy. You will definitely see me doing something next year but it won’t be Formula One.

“I would never say it’s closed,” he said of F1. “Ten years ago when that door was effectively shut, I’ve proven that it’s possible to open it again. I’m now in a position where I have a super license, I have hands-on Formula One experience, I definitely didn’t disgrace myself and I definitely wouldn’t say that door is closed.

“I’m in a pretty good place. I’ve definitely been better.”