Hartley nod provides hope to other F1 discards

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Brendon Hartley's F1 return gives hope to the sport's many rejects. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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    Brendon Hartley’s ascension to a full-time Formula One berth in 2018 was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. Resurfacing on the grid following years in the wilderness offers hope to others who believed their opportunity had passed them.

    The Kiwi, who debuted at last month’s United States Grand Prix, has been confirmed alongside Pierre Gasly to continue at Toro Rosso next season, completing his meteoric resurrection having been discarded by the Red Bull Junior Team seven years earlier.

    Hartley’s re-emergence bucks the trend of drivers facing the demise of their careers in the pinnacle of motorsport without a chance to prove themselves and validates the perseverance displayed by the 28-year-old.

    He commended Red Bull and Toro Rosso for “believing in me and giving me this second chance, dreams can come true” and, while short on opportunities to impress since his debut, gives rival outfits something to consider should his first full campaign vindicate their renewed faith.

    A cynic would claim that his return undermines Red Bull’s programme, that it dug its own grave in not boasting a readymade replacement for the ousted Daniil Kvyat, yet Hartley possessed the temerity to enquire to his ex-employer regarding the vacancy – initially triggered by Carlos Sainz’s early switch to Renault. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Biding his time in sports cars, the Kiwi will commence full-time duties as a dual World Endurance Championship victor, complemented by success at Le Mans, and has already displayed the grace of an individual who belongs in the paddock across his first three outings.

    Brendon Hartley

    (Image: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

    Hartley remains on Porsche’s roster despite the German manufacturer’s withdrawal from LMP1 competition, providing insurance should his belated career in the former prove fleeting, so it’s not as though he has gambled his future in motorsport on the unforeseen about-face.

    Not every driver is cut out to survive in Formula One, yet there remains a great many who for one reason or another are set aside, often in favour of inferior alternatives whose presence is dictated purely by financial motives.

    Romain Grosjean was on a hiding to nothing when he debuted for an uncompetitive Renault in mid-2009 and nobody bat an eyelid when he failed to return in 2010. Claiming AutoGP and GP2 titles over the following seasons, the Frenchman was afforded a second opportunity by the Enstone outfit for 2012. Despite some initial aggression issues, he emerged as a vastly superior driver who justified the reprieve.

    This is an unfortunately rare instance of an F1 driver being thrown into the deep end with inevitable consequences but refusing to allow their demotion to spell the end. It speaks to the perception that outfits aren’t receptive to reappraising such individuals down the track – that once the door is shut, there’s no looking back.

    Teams aren’t indebted to drivers for the life of their career, yet the talent pool is narrowed so greatly by placing a line through somebody tested yet not particularly tried. The answer to their searches could lie in doing their diligence and analysing whether a reject has learnt and grown away from the cauldron, in not being afraid of going back to the future, otherwise they’ll never know.

    Hartley has forged his trajectory to Formula One the hard way and has been forced to remain patient with circumstances outside of his control spoiling his potential to date. It’s right that he is now able to gather himself in the off-season to be at the top of his game for a worthy full-time tilt. Others will be keenly observing his progress in the hope they might also one day be remembered.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • Roar Guru

      November 21st 2017 @ 9:50am
      Jawad Yaqub said | November 21st 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      Even though both their reasons for being away from F1 were completely different, it will be great to see Robert Kubica also afforded another chance in the sport next season alongside Hartley. We might as well call it the ‘year of the comebacks’!

      • Roar Guru

        November 21st 2017 @ 7:12pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | November 21st 2017 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

        There’s an obvious expectation to deliver, and most teams are sceptical that an ex-F1 driver may still not cut it if they were given a second chance, though many are unprepared for its rigours when they receive their initial opportunity, so it’s rough when a 22-year old is exiled from any future.

        By extension, if as is certain and Kubica returns, he will need to perform at some point through the season to justify his retention, once the novelty wears off he is the same as any competitor, yet on pure talent there’s no doubting he deserves to show everybody what he has, and what we’ve missed out on the past seven years.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 12:50am
      Dexter The Hamster said | November 22nd 2017 @ 12:50am | ! Report

      I’m very happy to see Hartley on the grid next year, but it does raise the question of the much-vaunted Red Bull junior program. Thought they would prefer to give one of their 18-20 year olds a crack, as they have traditionally done in Toro Rosso. Maybe the depth isn’t there at the moment.

      In saying that, hope that the Kiwi does well, seems a real personality in the paddock, very open and honest, and easy going, typical of a Kiwi I guess.

      • Roar Guru

        November 22nd 2017 @ 9:21am
        Bayden Westerweller said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        That Red Bull didn’t have a viable alternative within its ranks is the first misstep, though the notion that they’ve turned to an ex-alum suggests they blundered when they initially cut Hartley loose. He deserves the drive as it is and it’s a win win for both parties if they enjoy a successful collaboration.

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