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Young Kiwis Missed F1 Chance

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Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino
Brendon Hartley

New Zealand could have had its first Formula 1 Grand Prix driver in over two decades at this weekend’s Hungarian GP. However, Brendon Hartley is simply not ready for the step up to the elite level and isn’t deserving of the opportunity just yet. 

Hartley was the reserve driver for both Red Bull owned Formula 1 teams but was replaced last month in order to focus on his European Formula Three championship and World Series by Renault campaigns.

Therefore, when Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was shown the exit door at Toro Rosso, Hartley missed out on his F1 chance.

Ironically the driver who will be behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso, Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, will become the youngest driver to race in Formula One taking the record from New Zealand’s Mike Thackwell, the last of eight Kiwis to enter a Grand Prix.

At 19-year-olds Hartley still has the time to break into Formula 1 and in many ways the Toro Rosso snub is a positive for his career.

To be thrown in the deep end of Formula 1 too early in a driver’s career can be incredibly damaging.

Formula 1 has a habit of spitting out driver’s who don’t impress immediately and Hartley is simply not ready for Formula 1.

Despite his undoubted natural talent and speed, he has failed to shine this season in Formula 3 and the World Series of Renault. Too often incidents and inconsistency have plagued his race weekends. 

He currently lies 11th in the Euro F3 series, a disappointment thus far.

Facing the added pressure of the reserve driver responsibilities with Red Bull, attending F1 race weekends, meetings and PR appearances, there has been a lot to carry on his teenage shoulders when combined with his F3 and Renault campaigns.

Red Bull’s decision to allow Hartley to focus on his junior category commitments is the right one.

Hartley is one of many Red Bull supported drivers battling in junior categories around the world, principally in Europe, eager to impress and battle their way into the one of the four Red Bull F1 seats.

Toro Rosso has been used as the vehicle for the promotion of these Red Bull youngsters with mixed success.

Too often they have been plucked too soon and many fear Alguersuari will suffer the same fate with his lack of experience.

With the ban on season testing, being a Formula 1 rookie has never been so difficult.

Drivers need to maximize their time in the junior categories and Hartley still needs much development before Formula 1 comes calling.


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