Monday, May 21 08:34pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Why Brendon Hartley probably won’t lose his Formula 1 seat

Speculation that Brendon Hartley could be on his way out of the Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda front door could purely be just that—speculation.

Motorsport.com and several other European news outlets have put their peg in the ground and state that Hartley will get the axe. It’s been reported that axing could be as soon as next week following this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Those close to Hartley have not denied the allegations. Long-time advisor to Hartley, Barrie Thomlinson, said the rumours weren't the first and likely wouldn't be the last.

Hartley is only nine races into his Formula 1 career. This season, his first (hopefully) full season, is only five races old.

It is perhaps a little unfair to cut the 28-year-old Red Bull Racing junior driver off so early on. However, the Formula 1 World Championship is a cut throat world, especially when you’re dealing with a man like Helmut Marko who is leading the Red Bull driver development program.

There are a few factors working in Hartley’s favour.

The first is that Red Bull haven’t got many drivers to run to.

Monday’s reports indicated that Hartley could be replaced by several drivers. The first pick suggested was Pascal Wehrlein. The 23-year-old is a former Manor and Sauber Formula 1 driver who is currently racing for Mercedes in the DTM.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, Wehrlein is currently contracted to Mercedes.

That trends with all the favourites to replace Hartley.

Polish driver Robert Kubica was also tipped, though he is the reserve driver for William Martini Racing. Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist was another slated to join, but again, he’s contracted to Mahindra.

Both Sean Galael of Indonesia and Britain’s Jake Dennis recently tested for Toro Rosso and Red Bull respectively at the official Formula 1 test day. They suggested for the seat, but they aren’t eligible to join the Formula 1 rostrum not having sufficient Super License points.

Don’t discount the fact that Hartley is the only driver among the Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso teams that has finished every race to date this year. Maybe there’s a bit more pace in the Kiwi? Spain might’ve been the weekend where he looked to push the limits, but promptly found them as is well documented.

Hartley has been noted for his ability to drive conservatively on tyres and fuel. That is an asset for any racing team, but his one lap pace is lacking. However, that’s not overly surprising when you’ve spent the past half decade driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Hartley comes from Porsche’s World Endurance Championship winning campaign with a wealth of knowledge.

There are few drivers out there waiting in the wings with that have hybrid experience and probably know how to develop Honda’s power unit. Know that Red Bull are well documented as wanting to run the Honda power unit in 2019.

If Hartley leaves, that development might stall. As a development driver, results then aren’t necessarily the be all and end all.

Behind the scenes, Porsche’s long rumoured entry to Formula 1 could add some weight to Harltey’s stay. Hartley’s time with Honda, Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso could aid well in any future endeavours for Porsche in the Formula 1 World Championship.

Hartley’s results haven’t looked stellar, but that’s probably why he’s not there. A reconnaissance trip for Porsche under the eyes of Red Bull isn’t out of the question.

Usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But maybe the smoke is just fog and there’s nothing to be concerned about for now. Time will tell.