Brendon Hartley set for Formula One debut with Toro Rosso in Texas


For the first time since the 1980s, a driver from New Zealand will be on the F1 grid, at next Sunday's US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

"What an incredible feeling!" said Hartley, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours this season and was world sportscar champion in 2015.

"This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1", the driver, who is racing at Japan's Fuji track this weekend, said in a team statement.

"I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull and to Porsche", he told the Toro Rosso site.

Hartley last tested for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso in 2009 and has not driven an F1 auto since 2012, before the new generation of turbo hybrid engines.

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Gasly has clashing commitments in Japan but is expected to return for the remaining races.

Coming off a win last weekend at IMSA's Petit Le Mans season finale in a Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi, Hartley has become an incredibly popular solution as a stand-in solution between FIA WEC obligations with Porsche. "I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it". Hartley was formerly part of the Red Bull Junior Team and has enough Super License points to compete in Formula One; but he is also now contracted to Porsche in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and is purportedly in talks with Chip Ganassi for a 2018 IndyCar deal. With Carlos Sainz departing to Renault, the team looks set to hand a full-time role to Gasly, who impressed in Malaysia and Japan, but the team has doubts about Kvyat, who has endured a hard time since being demoted from Red Bull in 2016.

Hartley, 27, said it was an awesome feeling to be contemplating a debut at last and felt ready for it at a track he already knows from world endurance.

Less than a year later he began providing testing in Mark Webber's place after the Aussie had suffered an injury, and for the 2009 season was the official reserve driver for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. We are really happy to have him back in our team. "With all the racing experience accumulated over the years, we are convinced that he will do a fantastic job for us", he said.

Mike Thackwell was the last driver from New Zealand to start an F1 race at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix.