Brendon Hartley says he has huge respect for Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko for ‘taking that risk’ by putting the New Zealander straight into a Toro Rosso drive before securing his Formula 1 future at the team for 2018.
The two-time World Endurance Champion says the call to race for Toro Rosso as Reanult-bound Carlos Sainz Jr’s replacement from the United States Grand Prix came as a complete shock but relished the opportunity to impress over the final four rounds of the season.
Earlier in the season Hartley spoke to Marko around the Hungarian Grand Prix offering his services with reports emerging of Porsche’s exit from WEC but was initially angling for a test or simulator role.
“I never believed they would put me into straight into a grand prix without testing or having that confidence in me to do that,” Hartley said. “Massive kudos and respect to Helmut and everyone else involved to take that risk and put the trust in me that I could do the job.
“I guess they did a lot of analysis from WEC, LMP1 and it also showed the level is high there and is respected.
“I made the call to Helmut Marko which was more or less before the Hungarian Grand Prix. At the time I didn’t believe I was going to be making my Formula One debut this year or even next year, but I knew there was maybe some opportunity to do a test, simulator driver, all those things that was maybe to prove myself again.”
Despite being plagued by engine grid penalties plus mechanical issues at the Mexican and Brazilian races, Hartley impressed enough to secure an F1 deal for the 2018 season with Toro Rosso switching to Honda engines.
Hartley’s capabilities developing Porsche’s LMP1 challenger from brand new to WEC champions and Le Mans 24 Hours winners is believed to have been a key influence behind the decision with the New Zealander hoped to help boost Honda’s progress with its power unit.