Bob McMurray: Time for Hartley to show heart
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There is a belief in Formula 1 that the season does not truly get under way until the first European Grand Prix.
Barcelona is recognised as the first real “Euro” event.
It is also the grand prix where the huge motorhomes — the “paddock palaces” — appear, the team catering goes up a considerable number of notches and the circus is back to being delivered on site by fleets of trucks rather than mountains of air freight boxes.
Those who travel the world attending every grand prix are reunited with those who attend only the Euro GP. The paddock becomes a village again.
Dozens of team trucks carry huge amounts of updated body parts and aerodynamic devices, in the expectation that the relevant bit, the clever new shape of a tiny piece of carbon fibre, will make the car go faster.
In general, most of these bits work; the car is faster, perhaps by one or two tenths of a second over the lap, and the wind tunnel guys sit back with a satisfied smirk having justified their existence — until the next good idea comes along.
Of course, every team follows this route, meaning all the cars of the 10 teams will move ahead by one or two tenths of a second, so everybody is in relatively the same place on the track.
With Barcelona 2018 having been run, the fears of many were confirmed, seeing the two Silver Arrows drivers, Lewis Hamilton in particular, reassert their authority as the leading runners. Just as they did during the Formula 1 test sessions here weeks ago.
It seems the euphoria of the independent fan or spectator in seeing the resurgent Scuderia be the force that would blunt the Silver Arrows may have been a false dawn and the rampaging Red Bulls a flash in the pan.
Fear not. I think future races will not be the tiresome processional walkover that was the Spanish GP.
The first Euro race is also the breeding ground of the lifeblood of the paddock: the gossip and the dreaded rumour. Who will be driving where, who will not be driving anywhere, which team is in trouble, who is on the way out?
Will Romain Grosjean have to retake his driving test and will the marshalls at next week’s Monaco GP bring in extra help at turn one, Sainte Devote?
There are dozens of rumours, some grounded in fact but many in fiction.
One rumour gaining ground concerns Brendon Hartley’s future. Will he be driving for Toro Rosso, or even in Formula 1, in season 2019?
The latest rumour is that he may be moved aside after the
Canadian Grand Prix this year.
Without question Hartley deserves to be in Formula 1 but the question has to be asked, is he good enough to stay?
His performances relative to his team-mate look, at least on paper, to be unimpressive and he has made some uncharacteristic mistakes.
Despite his World Champion status, he is perhaps more of a rookie in Formula 1 than any other driver.
Hartley’s relative times are improving, but he is also driving for one of the most unforgiving organisations in the sport.
Red Bull, with Helmut Marko as boss of the Red Bull driver development programme, has little hesitation in offloading any driver who is not performing.
So, as good as Hartley is, he now needs to start improving his performance relative to team mate Pierre Gasly and he needs to make himself a property other teams want to have.
The only way to quash the rumours is to defeat them by performing.
The signs are there for him, good and bad, and from now on his rookie status will be no defence in this harshest of environments.