With Pierre Gasly missing the USGP to compete for the Super Formula title in Japan, Toro Rosso has decided to call up Porsche WEC champion Brendon Hartley for duty. The 27-year old-Kiwi was once part of Red Bull's junior program before leaving to focus on sportscar racing and has found wild success there having won this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hartley hopes that this experience will help him compete at Sunday's race, but as he recently told Newstalk ZB radio, he'll only have four hours of practice logged before this weekend's qualifying round.
In the interview with Newstalk ZB, Hartley explained that he was given nearly 50 pages worth of instructions to prepare for the race at Circuit of The Americas. Combined with a few hours of running on Thursday and Friday, he thinks it could be enough to set him up for success against the more-experienced F1 grid.
Additionally, his WEC background could play to his favor as Hartley believes that's why he was chosen by Toro Rosso to replace Gasly this weekend.
"If we talk about lap time, the difference is not so great–around seven to eight seconds," he said. "That is not so much, especially in the race. I drive very fast cars, so I think Red Bull invited me partly for this reason but also because WEC cars are very technically complex. We use hybrid technologies, so in this regard, it is similar to Formula 1. But it's a big step for me because six or seven years have passed since I drove open-wheel cars. But I try to look at things simply as well."
Hartley participated in Red Bull's development program during the team's peak of success including Sebastian Vettel's run of four championships from 2010 to 2013. This was perhaps a leading cause for Hartley's transition to sportscars, which has proven well for his career and allowed him the chance for an F1 debut this weekend. Hartley has said he's is excited about the opportunity.
“I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull for making this a reality, and to Porsche for allowing me to do this alongside the World Endurance Championship," he said. "COTA is a track I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently. I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it."