Brendon Hartley has revealed he pitched himself to Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko after learning of Porsche’s plans to close its LMP1 program at the end of 2018, leading to his surprise grand prix debut with Toro Rosso this weekend.
Hartley was part of Red Bull’s junior program until 2010 when he was dropped by the energy drink giant, prompting him to shift focus to sports car racing.
Hartley joined Porsche’s new LMP1 program in 2014 to race in the FIA World Endurance Championship, winning the drivers’ title in 2015 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier this year.
Porsche announced back in July it would be quitting LMP1 at the end of 2017 in order to turn attention to Formula E, leaving Hartley without a full-time drive.
The New Zealander was confirmed to be making his F1 debut in this weekend’s United States Grand Prix after Pierre Gasly was ruled out due to a clash with Super Formula, coming as a surprise to the racing world.
However, Hartley has revealed he was quick to call Marko, a key decision-maker for Red Bull’s motorsport interests, after finding out about Porsche’s plans to quit LMP1.
“When it was announced Porsche would stop Endurance racing in LMP1 for next year, I called Helmut Marko and I said: ‘I’m a different driver, I’ve learned a lot and if there’s ever an opportunity I’m ready’,” Hartley said.
“He didn’t say much. He just said he got the message and three months later I got the call and this happened very quickly.
“I didn’t know about it much sooner than the press did so it’s been quite a whirlwind of a couple of weeks to arrive here. I’m pretty relaxed at the moment, all things considered.
“Obviously I’ve had quite a bit of time to chat to the engineers and go through some data, little bit of time in the sim and looking forward to Free Practice 1 and seeing how comfortable I feel, and looking forward to the race now on Sunday which is important for me.”
Hartley had been poised to make a switch back to single-seaters for 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but his Toro Rosso debut has fuelled speculation he could be in the running for a full-time F1 drive next year.
For now, Hartley is only confirmed for the USGP weekend, and is not thinking much about any further run-outs beyond that.
“I’m just focussed on the weekend to see how it goes and what comes from it,” Hartley said.
While there are no clashes between F1 and WEC between now and the end of the season, it would create a brutal run of seven straight race weekends for Hartley were he to be kept on by Toro Rosso through to Abu Dhabi.