2019 Ferrari F1 simulator driver Brendon Hartley will also make his return to the World Endurance Championship this year after finding a seat with SMP Racing.
Brendon Hartley’s diary for 2019 is slowly filling up, after a late 2018 decision from Toro Rosso meant that the popular Kiwi driver would not be kept on in one of their Formula 1 seats.
Signing a deal with the Ferrari Formula 1 team to become one of their simulator drivers this year, the 29 year old will also make his return to the World Endurance Championship; the WEC being a very happy hunting ground for him in the past. He’ll be racing with the SMP Racing team of Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 11 SMP BR1 as a replacement for Jenson Button, who is racing in Japan for the next two rounds. Button will return for the season finale, the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours.
As we reported last week, fellow 2018 F1 exile Sergey Sirotkin will also be racing in the SMP camp in the sister car. Egor Orudzhev, Stephane Sarrazin and Sirotkin make up the driving trio in the No.17 car.
“I’m very pleased to join SMP Racing for the next two WEC races at Sebring and Spa. The team have all the tools and a great driver roster so I think we have a big opportunity to fight for podiums. It marks my return to the WEC and I’m really looking forward to being back in the paddock amongst many familiar faces.”
Having stepped up to the LMP1 class with the Porsche team in 2014, he won the overall title in 2015 with teammates Timo Bernhard & Mark Webber. He also has won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice – in 2015 & 2017. This latter victory was just months before Hartley decided to take the F1 opportunity in front of him when Red Bull came knocking. However, with that door now shut, there is no seat at Porsche to return to as the German marque pulled out of the WEC last year.
There is the possibility that Hartley could be a main contender for the vacant seat at the Porsche Formula E team when they enter the sport next season. They’ve already announced that Neel Jani has taken one of the cockpits but, with Hartley’s long and successful partnership with them not that long ago, it’s quite likely that Hartley may find himself a full-time ride there yet.