Brendon Hartley has "no concern from racecraft or raceability"
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Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley remains optimistic about his chances of fighting for championship points this Formula 1 season despite a lowly 15th position finish at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Toro Rosso driver finished a lap down and was the last of the cars to finish the season-opening race but that came off the back of having to make an extra pit stop to replace tyres he flat-spotted on the opening lap and also after a puncture slowed him later in the race.
Expectation was quite high for the Toro Rosso team heading into Melbourne. Despite swapping engine suppliers over the off-season the new Honda-powered car impressed during winter testing in Barcelona, proving reliable and on the pace.
But it didn't translate to results in Australia. Hartley could only qualify 16th while teammate Pierre Gasly made a mistake in Q1 and was 20th. Gasly ran into mechanical failure early in the race and didn't finish while Hartley battled a lonely race behind the main pack.
But the Kiwi was still optimistic about what the immediate future holds.
"Everything is going in the right direction, there is no real concern from my side," Hartley told motorsport.com. "From what I understand [Honda] have updates coming, too.
"There's no concern from racecraft or raceability. We have a few tools to try and make an overtake stick.
Brendon Hartley during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park. Photo / AP
"I felt really comfortable in the team, in the car. Much more than last year.
"But I felt comfortable, I felt like I knew what I wanted from the car. From that point of view I was really happy; I managed my time well within the team.
"We just didn't get the result we targeted, which was a point. As we saw, that was a bit out of reach regardless."
As he prepares for the second race of the season next week in Bahrain, Hartley has kept his goal of securing a maiden championship point and believes that is a realistic target.
"I really hope so," he said. "I think even in qualifying we saw how tight it was. Hindsight obviously is great. If we played our cards differently we could have been fighting - from P12 back that's where we were in qualifying and those from P12 to the back is crazy tight, it's within two or three tenths.
"If we can put everything together and qualify closer to that top 10 and wait for our opportunity then definitely yes. On top of that, the team has an aggressive development programme for the next months so I think we all remain optimistic, but we know everyone else is working hard too.
"We still think this is a positive start.''