Former Toro Rosso race driver Brendon Hartley has secured a role as a simulator driver for Ferrari ahead of the 2019 season, joining fellow ex-F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein.
With last season’s Ferrari simulator drivers taking roles elsewhere for 2019 (Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kvyat will race for Sauber and Toro Rosso respectively), Ferrari have been on the lookout for drivers with recent F1 experience to aid their development push over the 2019 season.
Whilst ex-Sauber driver Wehrlein was widely expected to be confirmed for the role, Hartley is a less-anticipated addition to the Ferrari family, and becomes the third former Toro Rosso driver to be given a development role at the Italian giants, after Jean-Eric Vergne and Kvyat.
Wehrlein – who has recently been a test driver for Mercedes after leaving his Sauber race seat at the end of 2017 – will combine his current Formula E race commitments with Mahindra Racing with the Ferrari simulator role.
Alongside Hartley and Wehrlein, Ferrari will bring long-time academy driver Antonio Fuoco into the simulator team for the first time in 2019, whilst 32-year-old sports car driver Davide Rigon has remained part of the simulator team since 2014.
Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal said: “Our team has taken on four undoubtedly talented drivers, who possess innate feeling, with a strong understanding of race cars and tracks. These are exactly the qualities required in the skilful role of driving in a simulator, one of the vital pieces of equipment in the Formula 1 of today”.
Hartley with “many options” for 2019
Hartley’s role as a Ferrari simulator driver is his first since losing his seat at Toro Rosso at the end of the 2018 season.
Having been dismissed by the Red Bull driver academy earlier in his career, WEC champion and Le Mans winner Hartley was a surprise call-up for the 2017 United States Grand Prix.
He impressed enough to be given an opportunity to race for the team in 2018 alongside Pierre Gasly, but a lack of headline-grabbing results meant Toro Rosso opted to recall Daniil Kvyat to drive alongside Alexander Albon in 2019.
Speaking recently in The Players’ Tribune, Hartley admitted that he only knew he would be losing his seat after the final race of last season, which would’ve hampered his plans for 2019.
“So, going into Abu Dhabi, I knew that no matter what happened after the race I would leave the circuit with my head held high,” said Hartley.
“But, like the fans, I had no idea what was going to happen. That’s the thing about the politics in F1, it can be a little bit … awkward. Everyone sort of walks on eggshells, and there isn’t always clarity. So I just did all I could: my job. I out-qualified my teammate and drove to 12th on Sunday night.
“An hour later, I was summoned to a meeting.
“And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver.”
He added that he refused to believe that a route back to Formula One was impossible, and that he has potential opportunities in other racing categories for 2019.
“I’m fortunate to have a few options in front of me, but I need make sure it’s a fit. I want something that will continue to challenge me, push me, and make me and those closest to me happy. The F1 door is definitely not closed and the experience gained from a year at the top of the sport means I will arrive more prepared and stronger for whatever opportunities come next.”
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images