Dale Budge: It's heartening for Hartley
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The signs are promising that New Zealander Brendon Hartley will race Formula One for Toro Rosso next year.
Nothing is set in stone. Formula One is ruthless and the only currency is results. Just ask Russian Daniil Kvyat that. But how you define a good result might need more analysis.
The Toro Rosso situation is complicated. They are heading for a new engine supplier, Honda, next year and the quicker they get that up to speed the better for everyone concerned. The Honda/McLaren partnership has not yielded results and it's likely Honda will want that to be the case with Toro Rosso in 2018.
So that impacts on what type of driver the team needs - someone who can help improve the car.
Hartley has been around the block, he drove the Red Bull and Mercedes cars earlier in his career and had a role in developing them. He has spent the past few years working on the Porsche LMP1 car and that has resulted in a Le Mans 24 Hour win this year and almost certainly another World Endurance Championship title.
He appears to be better at providing useful feedback on how to improve a car than Kvyat.
Brendon Hartley talks with Max Verstappen. Photo / Glenn Dunbar
Although Kvyat clearly out-drove Hartley in Austin in terms of finishing position, the Kiwi actually recorded a faster lap time and exceeded more expectations than the Russian based on their comparative recent experience.
Qualifying speed was always going to be the toughest thing for Hartley to master.
Driving the car right on the edge, as he needed to do on a qualifying hot lap, is something that only improves with time spent in the car and the more a driver gets to know its idiosyncrasies. It was his first crack at driving a single-seater since 2012 let alone the cutting edge technology involved in Formula One.
In the short term, Kvyat looks the more likely to score points for a team which is in a mid-table battle with Williams and Renault in the constructors' championship.
You could probably understand the logic of alternating the developing Pierre Gasly and Hartley alongside Kvyat in the remaining rounds this season.
But the fact Toro Rosso have opted to go with Gasly, who has only two F1 races to his name, and Hartley (one) for this weekend's Mexico Grand Prix would indicate the bigger picture is more important to them.
If Hartley can continue to build on what he did in Austin a fulltime drive in 2018 seems more than likely.