Brendon Hartley has opened up on what he admits was the most stressful period of his motorsport career when he had inked a deal to race in IndyCar in 2018 at the same time Toro Rosso were requesting his services for an F1 drive.
Hartley was set to form an all-Kiwi line-up at Chip Ganassi Racing alongside five-time series champion Scott Dixon with the double Le Mans champion admitting he had agreed in private to a deal.
Hartley had been looking for a new drive for 2018 as his current employer Porsche was ending its LMP1 World Endurance Championship programme.
His impending exit from the WEC scene left the 30-year-old with the opportunity to phone Red Bull’s F1 driver development program Dr Helmut Marko in hope of landing an F1 test role.
“I never fell out with Red Bull and Helmut,” Hartley told the Rusty’s Garage podcast. “I lost my drive in 2010 but was realistic about it and admitted that I didn’t deserve the drive, I didn’t perform as well as I should of. So, I never fell out with him and burnt that bridge.
“But when I called him all those years later I said if there is ever an opportunity that I am ready and I am a different driver than what was back then.
“And he didn’t say much. He just went silent on the other end of the phone and you could almost hear the cogs turning.
“But I put down the phone and didn’t think too much about until two weeks later when [Helmut Marko] said you need to fly to Milton Keynes and drive the simulator.
“And a week later I was in discussion to do my fist Grand Prix at Austin. It is not something I saw coming.”
Hartley went on to make his Grand Prix debut with Toro Rosso at the 2017 United States Grand Prix to fill in for Pierre Gasly who made a failed attempt to win the Super Formula championship in Japan.
Toro Rosso then dropped F1 journeyman Daniil Kvyat for the remaining three races and confirmed Hartley for the rest of the season.
Then in November, Toro Rosso confirmed Hartley as the team’s full-time driver for the 2018 season.
But what the Kiwi did not reveal at the time was that he had fully agreed to an IndyCar deal for the same season.
The contract predicament quickly transpired into what Hartley admits was the most stressful period of his career.
“I had just signed an IndyCar contract,” he explained. “It was a good opportunity and all of a sudden I had both an IndyCar contract and an F1 contract, and it was definitely the most stressful two weeks of my life.
“There were some incredibly tricky decisions to make and difficult phone calls to be made and a lot of stress to sort it all out.
“At the same time I was racing for Porsche and it was in the lead up to the race in Fuji so I was in Japan at the time.
“I had a week of sleepless nights because I was dealing with three or four different time zones across America, Europe and Japan going through contracts, and I had help, but I like to read all my contracts myself.
“It was a very crazy story with some of the phone calls at all hours of the morning and some of the things that fell into place.
“It was an incredibly stressful time and I had a phone bill to match my exhaustion while I travelled around the world with my phone glued to my ear and downloading documents and all sorts; so that is one is for a book I might write one day.”
Hartley recently split from his Formula E contract with GEOX Dragon just five races into the shortened 2020 season.
The Kiwi offered little explanation behind the sudden exit but instead will return to his endurance racing commitments with Toyota at the Six Hours of Spa on August 13.