Motorsport: Brendon Hartley on his passion to return to Formula One

The highs and lows of Formula One have Brendon Hartley hooked - and he wants back in.

The Kiwi has just completed his first full season as part of the Mecca of motorsport, but inconsistent results early in the year ultimately cost him a seat for 2019.

Driving for Toro Rosso, Hartley claimed three point-scoring finishes across the season, but ended up 25 points behind French teammate Pierre Gasly, which ultimately sealed his fate.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream of driving in Formula One has left Hartley with a sense of pride, but his mixed season has only grown his desire to return to the paddock as soon as possible.

The 29-year-old plans on keeping his ear to the ground, just in case an opportunity arrives in 2019.

"Formula One can be a case of musical chairs sometimes and I now have a full season of experience under my belt," Hartley told Newshub.

"I definitely still have a very good reputation within the motorsport industry, I definitely didn't disgrace myself this year and there may be another opportunity at some point.

"At the moment, I am trying to figure out exactly the right steps to take next and keep my foot in the door of Formula One somehow, in case there is an opportunity.

"Things can happen very quickly."

Hartley points to his arrival in F1 as an example of just how quickly things can change in motorsport.

The Palmerston North local was drafted into the Toro Rosso out of nowhere as a fill-in driver for Gasly at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, then replaced Daniil Kvyat for the final three races, when the Russian was axed for a run of poor results.

Remarkably, Kvyat has found his way back into the team just over a year later - an example that Hartley believes he can follow.

"That being said, even for me being in Formula One, say, 18 months ago, I wasn't even on the radar at all," he said. "I never thought I had a chance of stepping on the paddock let alone being a full-time driver.

"I have a lot to be thankful for, I am really grateful for being there and the story might not be over."

Hartley (centre) alongside fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber (left) and Timo Bernhard after winning the 2017 Le Mans 24hr race.
Hartley (centre) alongside fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber (left) and Timo Bernhard after winning the 2017 Le Mans 24hr race. Photo credit: Getty
Hartley and his Toro Rossa engineer.
Hartley and his Toro Rossa engineer. Photo credit: Getty

Hartley is low on regrets about his brief stay, but feels a poor run of luck in the first quarter of the season led to some unfair speculation about his position in the team.

Aside from a monster crash at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, most of Hartley's misfortune was through poor performance of his car or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Hartley told Newshub that the rumours around his premature demise from the team were untrue and he never had discussions with team management about his job being at risk.

"It wasn't an easy start to the year. There were often difficult circumstances, most notably my future, my career being questioned after only a few races.

"I'm proud of how I dealt with that. It did turn around somewhat and I finished the season really well, but ultimately, I'm not going to be there next year, which I am disappointed with.

"The first time I had heard anything was actually someone from the media asking me about my thoughts and that was certainly a surprise to me. 

"That was a part of the process this year - learning about being under the microscope more than I have at any point in my career and the pressures of being in the public eye in Formula One, but I am happy with how I dealt with all of that.

"I think I became a little more selfish in some ways, where I would just focus on myself and not care too much about what other people had to say.

"I try not to read too many articles, but I do catch up on some of the comments on my social media from Kiwi supporters and I really felt that support behind me all year.

"I definitely felt the support back home and I was really thankful for that."

During the first half of the season, there were times where Hartley's race strategy was compromised by what his teammate was doing.

The Kiwi acknowledges that politics was part of the sport, while also admitting that Gasly was in better potential point-scoring positions several times at the front end of the year.

But Hartley believes he proved his quality in the final third of the season, where he out-performed Gasly more often than not.

"There is a lot more to Formula One than turning the steering wheel and pushing the pedals," Hartley said.

"If there is an opportunity there to get one car or the other further up in the points, then you have to accept that - and I fully accepted that.

"That is a part of the sport, but it is just a shame, during the first part of the season, it just didn't quite go our way. 

"Times when I would be just a few tenths behind [Pierre] in qualifying and that would affect my race.

"We didn't always have a car that was capable of finishing in the points. There were times when I finished 11th and that was pretty much as good as I could do, and there would be no retirements further up the road.

"If there had been one or two retirements inside that top 10, then everyone would be talking about what a fantastic race performance it was. 

"Things just didn't always fall my way, but that's Formula One.

"I would say I don't enjoy the political side of it, but there are plenty of other parts that I love - being a part of developing the fastest car on earth is a real buzz for me.

"I feel pretty privileged to have driven modern Formula One cars that have proved to be the fastest in history.

"It was incredible experience going very fast in a Formula One car around some great race tracks and I know not many people get the chance to something similar."

As for 2019, Hartley is contracted to Porsche, but does have options to pursue other endeavours, should they arise. Formula E may be an option, with the German manufacturer recently confirming an entry for next year, but Hartley has his eyes on a place that re-ignited his career.

The Kiwi won the Le Mans 24-hour race, alongside countryman Earl Bamber and German Timo Bernhard, in 2017, while also claiming a second world endurance championship.

Hartley's passion for one of the world's most famous races will be a driving force of his 2019 plans.

"I still have this real passion for Le Mans, even though it was something I had never dreamt about," he said.

"As a kid, it was always about Formula One. I grew a big love for endurance racing and I do see myself back at the Le Mans 24-hour next year. "