Second chances are few and far between in Formula One, but Brendon Hartley has made the most of his.
Scuderia Toro Rosso confirmed Thursday that its 2018 driver lineup will be comprised of Hartley and 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly. The announcement caps off a whirlwind of a month for Hartley, who made his F1 debut at the United States Grand Prix in October, five years after he last drove a single-seater.
The reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans champion was formerly a member of the Red Bull Racing junior program, but was dropped in 2010, after he was consistently outperformed by his then-teammate, current Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo. Hartley admitted ahead of his first Grand Prix start that he wasn’t ready for F1 at the time Red Bull pulled its support for him, but that’s no longer the case.
“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then basically,” Hartley said. “I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I’d like to think I’m ready now.”
Given the preference toward youth in racing — even more so in the Red Bull camp — the now 28-year-old likely assumed his F1 dream was out of reach after 2010. But he interestingly reconnected with the beverage company after another chapter of his career unexpectedly ended.
When Porsche decided in July that it will pull out of the World Endurance Championship after 2017, Hartley called Dr. Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull’s junior program, asking to be considered should an opportunity arise in F1. Marko, a man of few words, simply told Hartley that he “got the message.”
After that conversation, Hartley continued to search for a 2018 ride, reportedly inking a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive in IndyCar. But Marko’s comment clearly gave him renewed hope, so he made sure his contract included a provision that would allow him to back out of the arrangement if an F1 team made him an offer, according to Autosport.
Optimistic as it might have been to include that clause, it’s now clear that the Kiwi was smart to do so.