Brendon Hartley ready for 'dream' F1 début

Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso
© XPB 

New Zealand's Brendon Hartley is confident that he will be ready when he makes his Formula 1 début next weekend in the United States Grand Prix.

Toro Rosso confirmed on Friday that they were giving the 27-year-old Kiwi his maiden opportunity to show what he can do in the car. He will replace Pierre Gasly, who will be competing for the Japanese Super Formula title in the final round in Suzuka on the same day.

Hartly was a former Red Bull junior until he was dropped from the programme in 2010. Since then he's been mainly driving in sportscars, including victory in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours.

This weekend he's competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship race at Fuji. After that he'll be flying to Austin to begin preparations for next weekend's Formula 1 Grand Prix.

"I am ready," he told New Zealand's Radio Sport. "I feel up to it - I am excited, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous. But I feel ready."

"I don't want to give myself too many expectations for the weekend, but I guess I am as ready as I could be for an unexpected opportunity like this."

“I’ve got a lot to learn in one week," he said, adding that he needed to focus on his WEC race before anything else. "I’m genuinely trying just to think about this weekend.

"As soon as this weekend is over, full focus goes onto a big and new challenge next week."

Hartley last raced in single-seaters six years ago in Formula Renault 3.5. He tested a Formula 1 car in 2009 with Toro Rosso as part of his Red Bull residency. His last outing in an F1 car was for Mercedes in 2012.

"I didn't really expect to get another opportunity," Hartley told New Zealand Media and Entertainment . "I hadn't given-up. But part of me thought it was going to be tough.

"I guess this story shows you never should give up and dreams can come true. It is all cliche what I am saying but that is the truth of it, that is how it has happened.

“I’ve grown a lot as driver. It’s going to be a busy week but I’m looking forward to it.”

Hartley will be joining a select club of just eight previous Kiwi racers to make it to the pinnacle of world motorsport. They include Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon.

Following in the footsteps of some of the sport's most famous drivers clearly means a great deal to Hartley.

"When I line-up on that Formula 1 grid for the first time I am sure there will be quite a few emotions," he admitted.

"There are all these thing I am trying not to think of, but am very aware of. It's going to be really special to me.

"I am really proud that I can fly the flag. I had a text from Chris [Amon]'s son James just saying how proud Chris would have been.

"That just means so much to me," he said. "I teared up a little. I knew Chris really well."

Now the challenge for Hartley is not to get overwhelmed by the occasion, but to really show what he can do with the long-awaited chance.

“It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s going to be a dream come true, I’ve thought about that moment since I was a little kid," he said.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to embrace it. And most of all I’m going to try and enjoy it."

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