17 Dec 2018

Hartley has 'irons in the fire' for 2019

4:52 pm on 17 December 2018

Brendon Hartley hopes to keep the door to a Formula One return open as he draws closer to confirming his plans for 2019.

NZ F1 driver Brendon Hartley.

NZ F1 driver Brendon Hartley. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand's first driver in world motorsport's glamour category for more than three decades, Hartley was unceremonious dumped by Toro Rosso late last month after just 13 months and one full season with the team.

The 29-year-old from Palmerston North improved his performance steadily during 2018 but, after finishing 19th out of 20 drivers in the championship, was told his services were no longer required.

Back in New Zealand for a break after months under the intense spotlight of Formula One, Hartley told RNZ the disappointment was beginning to wear off as he looked ahead.

"There was a little bit of anger at first, but that quickly turned to 'OK, so what are the next steps, what does the future looks like'.

"I'm certainly not looking for sympathy. It has been an incredible experience to fulfil my dream of becoming a Formula One driver. I've been very fortunate but I did have more to give.

"I had a really strong end to the season, consistently outperformed my team-mate and it felt like I deserved another shot. But Formula One is complicated, there are politics and money involved so it doesn't always work out like that.

"I'm trying to keep my foot in the door with Formula One but also looking at other projects as well. Nothing is fully confirmed yet but there are a few irons in the fire and I'm still confident things will work out."

One of those irons is the burgeoning all-electric Formula E Series.

Hartley moved to Formula One from a highly successful four years as a factory driver with Porsche, winning two world endurance titles and capturing the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans crown.

Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber win 2017 Le Mans.

Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber win 2017 Le Mans. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Porsche are yet to announce their driver for their debut in Formula E next year and while he confirmed he had maintained a relationship with the manufacturer and would have a role with them in 2019, he said nothing was locked in.

"There is definitely a bit of hype [around Formula E] at the moment.

"It's not comparable to Formula One in terms of performance and speed, it's not on the same scale, but the racing is fantastic and it brings racing into the heart of cities, which is great.

"That's one of the potential options but I'm just biding my time ... I'm exploring all avenues and hopefully before the New Year I'll have a clearer picture of what 2019 looks like.

"I was planning to be home for a little less than a month but I did book a flexible fare in case I need jump on a plane earlier and get back for whatever."

While he would have much preferred to stay in Formula One for 2019, Hartley was still able to take plenty of positives from this year.

He reflected with satisfaction with the way he handled the almost constant speculation about his position with Toro Rosso and the many things that didn't fall his way on track.

Experiences he felt would have made him in a much better place to succeed next year, but will serve him well wherever he ends up.

Being behind the wheel had been a real buzz as well, he said.

"These modern Formula One cars are incredible and they may never be as quick as they were this year because the regulations are being changed next year to slow them down.

Brendon Hartley racing on Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore

Brendon Hartley racing on Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore Photo: © Actionplus 2018

"That was a real thrill to experience that. Even watching the on-board videos back sometimes, I was in disbelief how fast you really are going.

"It's hard to explain what it feels like to be sitting in a Formula One car, pulling your visor down and attacking that race track."

Easy to see, then, despite becoming the latest victim to the political world that is Formula One, Hartley's desire to be part of the action is burning as bright as ever.

"Yea there's still that desire. Formula One is still the pinnacle.

"I'm still a super licence holder, I've just got a full season under my belt, I'm still well respected in the motorsport world and I didn't disgrace myself by any stretch.

"I'm happy with how I dealt with everything and how strongly I finished. You just never know when an opportunity can pop up and if it does, I'll be ready."