This weekend Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley is back where he started his Formula One career at the US Grand Prix. This weekend sees him return to the circuit, one with which he is very familiar having competed there numerous times for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
“It’s one year on since I made my Formula 1 debut in the United States GP,” commented Hartley. “I’m very excited to be going back to Austin because it’s a city I love and a track I enjoy. We go there off the back of a really positive qualifying performance in Japan, which showed we have clearly made some steps forward and I think we will be aiming for another good qualifying performance, this time with some points on Sunday.
“The anniversary of one year in Formula 1 is a small milestone and it marks the first time this season that we come to a track that I have already driven in a Formula 1 car.
“As for the circuit itself, for a new track it has a lot of character, with plenty of undulation, a very quick first section which has some similarities with the “snake” in Japan. I’ll never forget driving a Formula 1 car for the first time, going through that section and having my neck almost ripped off from left to right! It’s one of the most impressive sectors on the F1 calendar. The whole track has a very bumpy surface and it’s very technical.”
It is the first time that team mate Pierre Gasly will compete in a F1 car at the circuit. “The first time I went to the USA was a long time ago for a karting race at Las Vegas, where I finished third,” said Gasly. “More recently, I have come to Austin as a third driver for Red Bull Racing but I’ve never driven the track there, so this will be my first time.
“It looks like a really technical track and most drivers reckon it’s one of the best of the year. I’m looking forward to my first race weekend there. Last year, I would have been racing in Austin, but it clashed with the final round of the Super Formula Championship at Suzuka in Japan. I had a chance of winning that, but the race was cancelled because of the bad weather: so it wasn’t the best weekend for me… We saw in qualifying in Japan that our car has made a good step forward and our pace was good in the race, so we have made real progress and I hope that continues in the United States and Mexico.”
With the announcement last week of Formula 2 driver George Russell joining Williams F1 Racing for 2019, there are effectively only two seats left on the grid for the next season. One is the other seat at Williams with the likelihood of current Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin not returning due to financial concerns; the other is Brendon Hartley’s seat.
His Toro Rosso team has already confirmed one driver, Daniil Kvyat, while not expecting to confirm who will fill Hartley’s seat until the end of the season.
As for Hartley, he has to continue to put in the stellar qualifying performance that he produced in Japan as well as actually gaining points (top ten finishing) in the four remaining Grand Prix.