Brendon Hartley poised for Formula 1 debut
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New Zealand might be about to have its next Formula 1 driver.
Not since Mike Thackwell in 1984 has a Kiwi driven on motorsport's biggest stage but that could change in the next fortnight with Le Mans 24 Hour winner Brendon Hartley looming as a serious contender for the vacant Toro Rosso seat at next week's US Grand Prix.
Youngster Pierre Gasly, a replacement driver this season himself, has opted to skip the race in Austin to concentrate on winning the Asian Super Formula championship at the series finale on the same weekend.
Autosport magazine is reporting that 27-year-old Hartley is the favourite to replace Gasly for the race at the Circuit of Americas track and is in the frame to get a full-time drive at the team next year.
He held the role of Red Bull's reserve driver from 2009-2010 and completed a test for Red Bull in 2008 as well as two for Toro Rosso in 2009 before being dropped from the programme.
He went on to fashion a terrific record in GT racing, including his win with the Porsche factory team at Le Mans this year. He is part of a trio including fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber and German Timo Bernhard that leads the World Endurance Championship but will be looking for another drive next year after Porsche's decision to withdraw at the season's end.
Hartley is set to race in the WEC round in Japan this weekend where he could secure the title.
He has also been linked to an Indycars drive alongside New Zealander and four-time series champion Scott Dixon at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Sebastien Buemi is considered the back-up driver if a deal with Hartley can't be done.
Kiwis to race in Formula One
Bruce McLaren - 1958-1970
Tony Shelly - 1962
Chris Amon - 1963-1976
Denny Hulme - 1965-1974
Howden Ganley - 1971-1974
Graham McRae - 1973
John Nicholson - 1974-1975
Mike Thackwell - 1980, 1984