Team: Toro Rosso
Car No.: 28
Best Finish: P13 (USA)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 23rd
Brendon Hartley offered one of the most surprising stories not just in Formula 1 this year, but in wider motorsport.
Seven years after being dropped from the Red Bull junior program, Hartley was drafted in as a shock replacement at Toro Rosso for the United States Grand Prix when both Carlos Sainz Jr. and Pierre Gasly were unavailable.
Hartley placed a call out of the blue to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko when he learned Porsche would be closing its factory LMP1 program, and was given a surprise call-up for Austin, where he impressed on debut despite not having driven a single-seater for five years.
Hartley’s performance earned him a deal for the remainder of the season, only for a lack of reliability with the Renault power unit in his Toro Rosso car to leave him powerless to fight for his maiden points.
The New Zealander was not so stressed about the struggles once Toro Rosso confirmed his deal for 2018, when he will look to prove himself in F1 and add another chapter to a racing career full of twists and turns.
Perhaps most crucially for Hartley, there will be stability and consistency. 2017 was a topsy-turvy year for him, featuring a dramatic Le Mans victory and a second FIA World Endurance Championship title, and an eight-weekend run of races to close out the year – not for the faint-hearted!
There have been five different winners in the last five weeks of the NTT IndyCar season and driver that kicked off that streak in Elkhart Lake is in desperate need of a victory to help close the points gap to the leader. After being involved in the Lap 1 accident at Pocono Raceway last week, Alexander Rossi sits 35 points behind Josef Newgarden. Rossi’s two victories this season have come on road courses.
This week’s Bommarito Auto Group 500 the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is the third race on this track since IndyCar first revisited it in 2017. Newgarden took the checkers in 2017; Will Power grabbed the glory last year. Gateway also hosted races from 2001-2003.
Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:
- For most of the drivers in the field, this will mark only their third time to race at Gateway, but two drivers were around in 2003 when IndyCar visited this track previously. Scott Dixon finished 15th in that race. He found the handle when Indy returned in 2017 to finish second and then third last year. Tony Kanaan was second in 2003; unfortunately he went the other direction and has not scored a top-10 at Gateway since.
- If one is looking for perfection on this track type, Simon Pagenaud is the only driver to sweep the top 10 on ovals in the past two years. In his last 10 starts on them, he has garnered an average finish of 5.2; his last five attempts have been sixth or better including a win in this year’s Indy 500. Pagenaud finished third at Gateway in 2017 and was fourth last year.
- The top two drivers in the points standings should also challenge for a top-five this week. Rossi was perfect alongside Pagenaud on ovals until his accident last week at Pocono with a sweep of the top 10 and seven top-fives in his last nine races. Newgarden also has nine top-10s and a worst of 13th on ovals in the past two years.
- Don’t count Dixon out of the points battle yet. While he currently sits 52 points out of first, Dixon is the hottest driver on the circuit with a current streak of five top-fives to his credit including his victory at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago. His oval record is a little spottier with two runner-up finishes and two 17th-place finishes in the last four races.
- Last week’s first-lap carnage ended Rossi’s top-10 streak at seven, but one other driver was able to sneak through and extend his. Graham Rahal will vie for his ninth consecutive top-10 this week, but that success is questionable in light of his Gateway record. Rahal finished 12th in 2017 and was barely able to crack the top 10 in 10th last year.
See More: IndyCar championship contenders seeing fortunes rise and drop
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