Brendon Hartley isn’t a Formula 1 driver in 2019, and says that moves to shift him out of Toro Rosso were happening all throughout last season.
Hartley made his F1 debut in late 2017 with Toro Rosso as a replacement for Pierre Gasly, before landing the seat fulltime in 2018.
The two time World Endurance Champion had an up & down sort of year, with plenty of incidents and accidents along the way. It was this erratic form that called his performance into scrutiny and Red Bull opted against renewing his deal for 2019 and replacing him with Alex Albon.
In an extensive interview with the Player’s Tribune, Hartley went into extraordinary detail about his 2018 season. He revealed that moves to replace him began quite early in the year, with Red Bull initially attempting to get McLaren’s Lando Norris into the STR prior to the Canadian Grand Prix.
Outlining the pressure he had to deal with throughout the season, he said: “That looking-over-my-shoulder feeling didn’t really go away all year. But, that’s just how it is. Every driver or athlete at a professional level must deal with pressure, and all will have their own way of handling it or even turning it into a positive. The pressure comes from all angles in F1 but the feeling of being under the microscope all the time, that was the one that I hadn’t dealt with to this extent before.”
“It felt like if I farted in the car somebody would be writing or commenting on it. I did find myself hardening my approach, being more selfish with my time on race weekends, and caring much less about what was written or what others thought.”
The notoriously ruthless Red Bull driver program spat Hartley back out again, as the Kiwi explained that he finally got the boot right as the season ended:
“I had no idea what was going to happen [after Abu Dhabi]. That’s the thing about the politics in F1, it can be a little bit… awkward. Everyone sort of walks on eggshells, and there isn’t always clarity. So I just did all I could: my job. I out-qualified my team mate and drove to 12th on Sunday night.”
“An hour later, I was summoned to a meeting. And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver.”
“I went back to my driver’s room, I hugged Sarah. There were some tears (Sarah is prone to the odd tear), some sadness, but also already looking to the future and the next steps. My friend Mark Webber entered the room a few minutes later. He knows a thing or two about the sport, I would always listen carefully to any advice he had to offer. My trainer Rich and good friend Joe were there with me too. It was nice to have some of the closest members of my team with me at that moment, I called the others who have also been a big part of my story later that evening.”
“In the meeting there wasn’t much said. It was clear to me then that from as far back as Monaco there was a plan in motion to move me on.”
“That was it. What I thought didn’t matter.”