Brendon Hartley has opened up on his dismissal from Toro Rosso, saying he became aware his seat was under threat as early as last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Toro Rosso replaced Hartley after one season, going for a completely different driver line-up in 2019 following Pierre Gasly’s promotion to Red Bull. But Hartley says he found out he could be replaced as early as the sixth round of the season in Monaco, following rumors in the media.
“For me, it was tough, because when I look back now, what I will remember most about it is walking down to the paddock to meet with the media on the Wednesday before the weekend started, and receiving a bunch of questions about my future,” Hartley wrote in The Players Tribune.
“Here I am, a handful of races into my F1 career, and I’m being asked about the end.
“The worst part of that day, though, was finding out there was some truth to the rumors. After a few races, there were some people, it appeared, who didn’t want me there. I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a shock. After entering F1 with a wealth of experience, two World Endurance championships, a win at Le Mans, and out-qualifying my teammate two out of the first three races, it was hard for me to believe that there was talk of my being replaced so early.
“That’s life in F1, though. The sport has so much money and so many people involved, it’s only natural that there are politics. If you’re a fan you know it, and if you’re a driver, you live it.”
Despite that early speculation and knowing there were moves afoot to replace him, Hartley says the final news was only given to him after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Going into Abu Dhabi, I knew that no matter what happened after the race I would leave the circuit with my head held high.
“But, like the fans, I had no idea what was going to happen. That’s the thing about the politics in F1, it can be a little bit … awkward. Everyone sort of walks on eggshells, and there isn’t always clarity. So I just did all I could: my job. I out-qualified my teammate and drove to 12th on Sunday night.
“An hour later, I was summoned to a meeting … And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver.
“In the meeting there wasn’t much said. It was clear to me then that from as far back as Monaco there was a plan in motion to move me on.
“That was it. What I thought didn’t matter.
“So, after I left [my wife] Sarah and my mates, I walked down to the garage and I told some of the guys that I wouldn’t be coming back. That was tough. These boys and girls had put so many hours of their life into the sport and the team and they don’t always get the praise they deserve, so often the focus goes towards the driver rather than the team overall. I was a proud member of Toro Rosso and Honda, and saying goodbye that day was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”