Brendon Hartley is Toro Rosso’s new driver and will make his F1 debut in Austin next weekend.
The New Zealander has stepped up to the vacant seat after Carlos Sainz moved from Toro Rosso to Renault.
Brit Jolyon Palmer has left Renault early, triggering the reshuffle with four races of the 2017 season still remaining.
Hartley will drive at the US Grand Prix in what will be a long-awaited debut for the New Zealander.
Should he compete in the race he will become New Zealand’s first F1 driver since Mike Thackwell in 1984.
Discussing his inclusion in next weekend’s race, Hartley said: “What an amazing feeling! This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1.
“I have grown and learnt so much since the days when I was the Red Bull and Toro Rosso reserve driver, and the tough years I went through made me stronger and even more determined. I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull for making this a reality, and to Porsche for allowing me to do this alongside the World Endurance Championship.
“COTA is a track I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently. I’m trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it.”
Here’s why it’s taken Hartley so long to get onto the grid.
Who is Brendon Hartley?
Brendon Hartley started racing as a kid and by the age of 17 was racing n the British Formula 3 Championship.
The New Zealander was tipped for a spot in F1 heading into the 2008 season, when Red Bull invited him along to a show run in Saudi Arabia.
Less than a year later he began providing testing in Mark Webber’s place after the Aussie had suffered an injury, and for the 2009 season was the official reserve driver for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
However, Hartley never got his debut as he was made to wait patiently as other drivers took seats above him.
Brendon Hartley outside of F1
Hartley was not content with sticking around the F1 paddock as a reserve driver and began racing in endurance events in 2012 – the same year he joined Mercedes as a test driver.
He has raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours each year since, while also competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship since 2014.
He won the series in 2015 and 2017, both with Porsche.
What they said
Discussing Hartley, New Zealand racing legend Kenny Smith – who is also his mentor – said: “Brendon didn’t like anybody ahead of him. In the early days walking down the road, he had to have a stride ahead of you,” Smith said.
“He is one of those who is so competitive in everything he did, he wanted to be a winner – and that is what has given him the drive to keep on going.
“I could see that when he was 12 years old driving Formula Vees, driving off the track and doing all sorts of crazy things, he tried so hard – and Brendon never gave in.
“He was always looking to go quicker and look what he has got now. It is a dream come true for a Kiwi to do what he is doing.
“He is a wonderful kid and It has been so good to associated with him over the years.”
Franz Tost, Toro Rosso team principal, said: “Scuderia Toro Rosso is very pleased to announce that Brendon Hartley, who has been part of the Red Bull family for a long time in different classes, as well as the test and reserve driver for Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, will now be back racing for us in Austin.
“Brendon is coming as the reigning 24h Le Mans winner and he’s also leading the current FIA LMP1 World Endurance Championship, which he won in 2015 as well. We are really happy to have him back in our team.
“With all the racing experience accumulated over the years, we are convinced that he will do a fantastic job for us.”
Source : EXPRESS