Was 13th Place Enough for Brendon Hartley to Impress Toro Rosso?

When called into the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 team, New Zealander Brendon Hartley was both coming home, but also debuting yet again. Having already been a Red Bull Racing team member and a Toro Rosso development driver, he was asked to fill an empty seat left by Pierre Gasly.

Was 13th Place Enough for Brendon Hartley to Impress Toro Rosso?

The call-up for the just completed American US Grand Prix was his ‘job interview’ and he appeared to do exceptionally well. Finishing a race that other more fancied men could not, the Le Mans winner seemed to check off the boxes required to impress.

Without the advantage of an F2 or tier-one open wheel class championship, Hartley has had to audition as an import. A man who was handed a 50 page manual, a time in the simulator and then ‘the keys to an F1 car’. Wow, it is what dreams are made of.

He finished his first full Grand Prix. His 13th place was outside the rostrum, outside the top ten, but it was a demonstration of what he holds. So, for Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost, the decision comes down to analyzing the data.

Was 13th Place Enough for Brendon Hartley to Impress Toro Rosso?

Tost had already intimated to RadioSport in New Zealand, that Hartley was performing well. The team Principal said when interviewed “he’s shown a huge improvement from when he was Toro Rosso’s test driver in 2009,” and mentioned how Brendon Hartley had gelled well with the team.

Tost says “if Hartley continues to show improvement, then he’ll be a driver for them next year.”

Not an official contract, but the endorsement is supported by a recommendation from Daniel Riccardo. The Australian telling motorsport.com that “when I found out about it, I was super stoked for him. We are all competitors, but I feel like we’ve been through quite a bit, him in particular.

“It will probably sound like I’m a bit biased because I’m a friend, but as far as the older drivers go, he’s deserving. He [Hartley] 100 percent deserves his F1 shot.”

Hartley Caps Off Great Weekend for Toro Rosso

On Saturday, he finished the US Grand Prix practice as the 18th fastest driver–even while his team had been penalized for a technical infringement. That meant Hartley started yesterday’s race from the back of the field.

So from 20th position, he made up seven places. That is impressive, and with Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, Pascal Wehrlein and Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Riccardo all not finishing, he completed a testing race.

The Austin ‘Circuit of the Americas’ track is very different when driving a Formula One car, than it would be to a Porsche World Endurance Championship car. But after the race, Tost was glowing.

Now the decision is Scuderia Toro Rosso’s to make.

Will Hartley be invited to drive in this week’s Mexican Grand Prix? And will that then lead to a 2018 contract?

The Future Looks Bright for New Zealand Born Driver

Without the financial backing that Gasly brought, the call to go with Hartley will likely be on talent alone. Like a Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel, the element of promise might be the selling point. Hartley has numerous category championships and a coveted Le Mans title behind him.

Plus, Hartley is integrated into the organization: a former development driver, he will have relationships that would have been improved over the weekend. Not a case of first impression, but reinforcing decision makers opinions of his character, and his ability.

Daniil Kvyat may also be an influencing voice. Team mates know finite information, and if Hartley offered knowledge and complimented the dynamic, that will also help.

But from the viewpoint of a small nation, if Brendon Hartley can re-establish the credibility of Kiwi drivers, it will benefit the entire sport. It would benefit Hayden PaddenHyundai World Rally driver; Shane Van GisbergenSupercar 2016 champion. And the name McLaren still holds sway in Formula One.

So wish Brendon all the best. He has lived out his boyhood dream. He has also performed exceptionally well, in the highest form of Motorsports. And, he has looked comfortable in doing it. And that cool aura may be his biggest quality. The US Grand Prix did not overpower him, in fact he finished his debut race.

So, was 13th place enough for Brendon Hartley to impress Toro Rosso?

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