At times it feels like Toro Rosso relish their high rate of driver turnover. Not content with chucking both drivers at the end of 2017, both their replacements have now gone as well, though only Pierre Gasly earned a promotion.
Brendon Hartley, meanwhile, was shown the door shortly after the chequered flag came down on the final race of the year. This seemed to be on the cards early in the season, when rumours about Hartley’s future began to surface, which he admitted caught him by surprise.
His campaign never recovered from a string of knocks in the opening races. In Bahrain he received the team’s latest upgrade a day later than Gasly, then hit a bird in qualifying and wasn’t able to join his team mate in Q3. While Gasly bagged fourth – the team’s best result of the year – Hartley messed up the start protocol, got a penalty, and then collided with Sergio Perez.
He went one worse in China by colliding with his team mate while letting Gasly through for the second time in the race. The in Azerbaijan he failed to notice his team mate catching him in qualifying, resulting in terrifying near-miss which could’ve sent Gasly airborne.
Relations between the pair deteriorated and eventually culminated in Gasly repeatedly ignoring the team’s demands for him to let Hartley by in Brazil. Soon afterwards rumours started to do the rounds that Toro Rosso were looking to replace Hartley with Lando Norris. It didn’t help matters that he smashed up his car in final practice at the Circuit de Catalunya and had to miss qualifying.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||6/17|
|Beat team mate in race||4/12|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||223/830|
|Qualifying margin||+0.14s (adjusted)|
Hartley was right to point out a series of misfortunes hindered his attempts to get on terms with his team mate. He was taken out in consecutive starts at Monaco and Montreal by Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll respectively, and a suspension failure caused another big crash at Silverstone.
His one-lap pace compared to Gasly was respectable, too: there only a tenth of a second between them on average. Hartley showed his experience in Germany by over-ruling the team’s call for intermediate tyres to take his second points finish of the year. Nor did Toro Rosso incurring eight penalties on Hartley’s car – the most of any driver – aid his cause.
But Hartley failed to convert any of his chances to score big points. Hungary was a big blow: from eighth on the grid he reversed out of the points and finished there, while Gasly bagged sixth place. Mexico was another squandered opportunity as he failed to reach Q3 and tangled with Esteban Ocon in the race.
His final scoreline against Gasly was bad, though no worse than Daniil Kvyat’s was against Carlos Sainz Jnr 12 months ago. That begs the question why Toro Rosso bothered to give him a chance in the first place if they were going to give up on him this quickly, and suggests the call was as much about Hartley’s relationship with the team as his performance.
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Over to you
I don’t think I’m alone in desperately wanting Hartley to do well for some reason, but he clearly hasn’t cut the mustard this year. He’s had his share of misfortune, but has too often been much slower than Gasly.
Even his high points haven’t been much to shout about, scraping into the points only through retirements or disqualifications. I’m glad he got his chance, but won’t be too sad to see him go.
What’s your verdict on Brendon Hartley’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.
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