Brendon Hartley responds: "I left the circuit with my head held high"
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After a lengthy, drawn out period of speculation regarding Brendon Hartley's Formula 1 future, Scuderia Toro Rosso confirmed yesterday what many had been guessing for months; that Hartley would be replaced with Alexander Albon.
It was nonetheless a devastating blow for those who relished having a Kiwi racing on the world's biggest motorsport stage.
And for the first time since the announcement, Hartley has responded — posting the following on social media.
"I left the circuit on Sunday with my head held high," he said.
"I’m very proud of my story and journey so far but am left feeling I have unfinished business in F1. For the moment that has been put on hold. I’ve hit speed bumps before and I am a strong believer that tough situations make you stronger, it also helps that I have a great NZ support crew, family, friends and wife.
"I also want to thank my trainer Rich and almost all of the 500 strong Toro Rosso staff who I have stood beside and have enjoyed working with this season, all of the engineering team, the mechanics, marketing, PR, logistics, hospitality crew, factory staff and of course all at Honda Racing.
"I really do appreciate the support I have received from fans across the globe this year, I still have plenty more pages to write in my story and I will make the most of the opportunities in the next chapter."
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Hartley struggled at various points in the season, in part due to a car that lacked reliability and often lacked pace. Luck was also against him, with lap-one incidents in Canada and Italy further stunting his shot at points-paying finishes.
But a results surge late in the season (which gained particular momentum when the circus began revisiting circuits he had raced on last season) gave some hope that he would be handed another shot. Over the last eight races of the year, Hartley arguably out-performed teammate Pierre Gasly.
References to Hartley were curiously absent in Toro Rosso's official press release announcing the change in driver line-up. On the flip-side, Honda have issued a statement thanking Hartley for his help with developing their engine platform over the season as they look to become the supplier for all four Red Bull cars on next year's grid.
"Everyone at Honda enjoyed working with Brendon throughout the year,” said Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda's technical director.
“He was very strong on the engineering side, always giving very precise and useful feedback, based on his great experience working with hybrid power units and as a double world champion and Le Mans winner in LMP1. “That feedback accelerated our development in terms of set-up work, which helped us progress over the course of the year.
“Thank you Brendon, and we wish you all the very best for the future.”
“On behalf of Honda, I would like to express my thanks to Brendon for all his hard work this year," added Honda motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto.
“It gave everyone at Honda so much power and confidence in what we were doing this year after several difficult seasons. I particularly remember when he qualified sixth at our home race in Suzuka. That meant a lot to Honda. “We will miss him and wish him all the best for the future.”