Brendon Hartley ended up in Formula 1 almost by surprise. Scuderia Toro Rosso selected him as a full-time driver for 2018: in a season with new tyres, the Italian outfit also faces the challenge of a new engine that gave Brendon his first points in the sport. We sit down with the Kiwi who opens up about his racing life.
Brendon, what did your first points in Formula 1 mean to you personally?
It was a milestone for me being here, being a Formula 1 driver. After taking my first points, I felt some relief, because there was a bit of pressure building after the big opportunity I had in Bahrain to score my first points and I didn’t make it. Scoring your very first points brings you confidence, and hopefully they are the first of many. It was a big moment for me, but I still have to learn more, and I hope it’s only the start of the story.
Pierre Gasly has also scored his first points. Do you feel additional pressure for having someone with such big expectations on him as a teammate?
I think every driver in the pitlane wants to beat his teammate. Pierre is a tough racer, but we get along, and we’re working together for the same objective. At the end of the day, we’re a good team, and we share a lot of information because there is a lot to improve. It’s a good relationship; he’s quick, for sure, but I feel more than capable to do better.
I’d love to compete in 24 Hours of Le Mans again, but at this moment I’m fully focused on Formula 1.
Huge expectations are set on Pierre, but you have a great deal of experience behind you, especially in endurance racing. What would you say you can give to the team that your teammate can’t?
As a rookie, I come with a lot of experience compared to others. I am older, and I also have experience working in a big project with a lot of pressure and complexities… I think I can offer some good experience, and honest feedback. When I say something, it’s what I feel, I’m not the kind of driver that gives feedback for the sake of giving feedback, I like to be constructive and quite honest, and of course my experience from the past it’s a good thing for me to have.
Let’s talk about the engine. Have you felt the difference between the two power units?
It’s a tricky question to answer, because as a driver, you feel pretty similar power-wise. But it’s been great having a Honda engine – we have a good working relationship with the manufacturer, and everyone feels really positive within the team.
Tell us about the moment you found out that you were going to be the official driver for Toro Rosso, and the role of Mark Webber when you got the confirmation.
It was a big moment for me, because I dreamt about it since I was a small boy. Since then, I’ve received advice from a lot of people, and probably more from Mark who was not only a teammate but also a good friend. Mark is such a great man with a lot of experience, and he’s able to give reliable advice. This sport moves very quickly, and every weekend there’s something for you to learn, a new change… Change of conditions, tyres… It’s always much more complicated than it seems from outside, because you have to manage all the things behind the scenes… The work with the engineers, the way you piece all those other elements together… It’s definitely not only about putting the helmet on and driving a car, and in the whole picture Mark is someone who you can really count on to be wise.
When it comes to advice, you can always share some valuable insights with Fernando Alonso regarding endurance racing. Are you planning to take part in other racing events outside Formula 1?
Obviously, I’d love to compete in 24 Hours of Le Mans again, but at this moment I’m fully focused on Formula 1. It’s a huge thing for me to be here, to keep learning, to have a perfect weekend, and that requires a lot of concentration and hard work. I believe all of my energy needs to be spent here. Of course, Fernando has been in Formula 1 for a long time, and he knows everything very well… But right now, it’s much more crucial to me that I put everything I have into my team.