A new Formula One face - who is Brendon Hartley? 09 May 2009
With just one debutant driver this year - Sebastien Buemi - new faces have been a little thin on the ground in the paddock. But at this weekends Spanish Grand Prix theres a new member to the F1 fraternity. Brendon Hartley, who will serve as Red Bulls (and, of course, Toro Rossos) reserve for the Barcelona weekend.
Although he only received his super licence ten days ago, 19-year-old New Zealander Hartley has racing in his genes. Father Bryan was a well known Speedway figure, as well as enjoying spells in the Pacific, Atlantic and Brabham Formula classes. And Hartley was only six when he began his karting career, following in the footsteps of talented elder brother Nelson.
After taking eight series titles, he had his first taste of single-seater racing aged just 12, after migrating to the Formula First class. One of the youngest drivers competing, he finished his rookie season in seventh place, before switching his focus to the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship at 13. Despite winning more races than any other competitor, he finished his debut year as series runner-up.
In 2005 Hartley moved to the inaugural Toyota Racing Series and made headlines after winning the first ever race at New Zealand's Timaru circuit. Although he wouldnt win again that year, he finished the series third and did enough to catch the eye of Red Bull, prompting the Austrian drinks company to invite him to their driver search at the Portuguese circuit of Estoril.
After impressing the judges, Hartley became a Red Bull Junior Team member in 2006 and at just 16 moved to Germany to try his luck on the European racing scene. With improving results in that seasons Formula Renault 2.0 World and Northern European championships, Red Bull extended his contract in 2007 and he relocated to Austria for the season.
Running with team Epsilon Euskadi, an impressive Hartley took the 2007 Formula Renault Euro Cup and was invited by Red Bull to compete in the prestigious F3 Masters race at Zolder in Belgium. Surprising everyone by finishing fourth of 40 rival competitors, Hartley was then asked to race at the illustrious F3 Macau Grand Prix where he took 12th.
His success at Zolder and Macau led Red Bull to back him to compete in the hugely competitive British F3 championship. And he did them proud once again, taking third in the 2008 standings behind winner Jaime Alguersuari and runner-up Oliver Turvey, after clinching five wins and a further six podiums.
He had also simultaneously kick started his Formula One career, demonstrating a Red Bull machine in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh in March, before being asked to test the brand-new Toro Rosso STR3 at an intensive three-day shakedown at Vairano in April. Pleased with his pace, Red Bull asked him back in December following Mark Webbers accident, as a member of their test line-up.
Hartley seized the opportunity with relish, clocking the Jerez sessions seventh-fastest time, after 83 laps in the RB4. And Red Bull had clearly seen enough to decide on their reserve driver. Only the wait for the required super license delayed his F1 arrival proper, with retired racer David Coulthard filling the role at the opening four 2009 rounds, as the teenager continued to race in the F3 Euro Series.
On his new position, Hartley commented: I must thank Red Bull for all their support since 2005 and this new role is another step on the path to reaching my goal of being a Formula One driver. I know that with the new in-season testing ban, Im not likely to get much cockpit time, but I will be part of the team and will learn a lot from that.
If Hartley does end up racing in 2009, he will be the first New Zealander to start a Grand Prix since Mike Thackwell back in 1984.