The vultures are circling Brendon Hartley as F1 rumours flow
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The "vultures will be circling" around battling Brendon Hartley according to a former British Formula One driver Martin Brundle.
Speculation in Barcelona's F1 paddock just over a week ago apparently suggested Hartley would need a good result in Monaco this weekend to save his fledgling F1 career.
Hartley has scored one point after five races in his first full season. He received the shock F1 call up from Red Bull in 2017, when he was given four starts with junior team Toro Rosso to prove his worth.
Sky Sports commentator Brundle told Radio Sport that rumours quickly spread in the tight world of F1, and he was unsure if predictions Hartley faces the axe from Toro Rosso are valid.
But Brundle said Hartley needed good results and the upcoming races in Monaco and Canada were ideal for that.
Various websites and commentators have been analysing Hartley's year and observations include the claim that he is too nice.
Brundle said: "The whirlwind starts in the [F1] paddock — it is a very small place where you can start a rumour and see how quickly it gets back to you as we've done in the past for a laugh.
"I'm not saying that's what is happening with Brendon ... it's very hard to get to Formula 1 and even harder to stay there. It's a brutal place in the Red Bull hierarchy as he knows because he's already been on the receiving end of it.
"I suspect there are some concerns to his absolute pace and issues he's been having, but I really wouldn't know if those rumours about replacing him are true.
"He does need some decent results. Monaco and Canada often have a bit of carnage — if the opportunities arise he needs to be there to take them.
"He's a nice lad, a great racing driver. I know [former F1 driver] Mark Webber and co. are always trying to give him some advice and fast track where he needs to be.
"Pierre Gasly is doing good job in the other car and it's inevitable vultures will be circling if they see someone having a bit of a difficult time."
The rumours include interest from Toro Rosso in former F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein from Germany. Red Bull's response to that suggestion has not been seen as a strong endorsement for Hartley.
A Eurosport.com story also claims Toro Rosso's new link with Honda means it wants to include a Japanese driver.
Meanwhile, the Badger Grand Prix site claimed Hartley was too nice when things went wrong.
Writer Dan Thompson claimed: "In a lot of ways, it's Hartley himself who is his own worst enemy. His tendency to admit fault right away after an incident is refreshing but it doesn't do him a lot of favours in the cut-throat world of F1.
"Baku is a prime example of this; when his limping Toro Rosso strayed into the path of his team-mate and almost sent the Frenchman into space, Hartley immediately apologised and accepted blame.
"A more confident driver may have rightly questioned why the team didn't give clearer instructions to both drivers about where they were on the track. But instead, Hartley put his hands up, blame was attributed to him and everyone moved on."
Thompson went on to argue that Hartley's ability as a development driver means he is a valuable asset as Red Bull looks to replace the Renault engine with Honda.
"Toro Rosso is supposed to be about finding the next world champion," he wrote.
"Is Brendon Hartley a future world champion? Probably not. But he is still a talented and technically minded driver at a time when Red Bull needs just that."
The F1 roadshow is in Monte Carlo this week, and heads to the seventh race of the season at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve track a fortnight later.
Hartley has said he will get an upgraded engine in Canada. He is racing for the Red Bull organisation at a tricky time — it is considering a switch from Renault to Honda, which already supplies Toro Rosso.