Plans to oust Hartley were 'set in motion' at Monaco


Brendon Hartley has revealed that a plan last season by Red Bull to unseat the Kiwi from Toro Rosso was put in motion as far back as the Monaco Grand Prix.

Hartley was entrusted with an F1 driver at the 2017 US Grand Prix as a result of a game of musical chairs at Toro Rosso that involved Carlos Sainz in-season transfer to Renault and Daniil Kvyat's premature exit.

The Kiwi was confirmed at the Faenza squad for 2018 but was out-performed by team mate Pierre Gasly in the opening few races of the year, a shortfall that led to doubts creeping in at Red Bull.

Writing a final chapter of his F1 diary for The Players' Tribune, Hartley let out his frustrations as he recounted his weekend in Monaco and the shocking speculation regarding his future that ignited even before he had turned a wheel around the Principality.

"What I will remember most about it is walking down to the paddock to meet with the media on the Wednesday before the weekend started, and receiving a bunch of questions about my future," wrote Hartley.

"Here I am, a handful of races into my F1 career, and I’m being asked about the end. The worst part of that day, though, was finding out there was some truth to the rumours.

"After a few races, there were some people, it appeared, who didn’t want me there. I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a shock.

"After entering F1 with a wealth of experience, two World Endurance championships, a win at Le Mans, and out qualifying my teammate two out of the first three races, it was hard to for me to believe that there was talk of my being replaced so early.

"I walked back to our apartment that night looking at the walls of the Monte Carlo circuit, knowing that, if I binned it, if I made contact with those walls this weekend, my F1 career might end in a few days. I knew every practice session carried more weight for me."

Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso

Unfortunately, Hartley's performance that weekend didn't improve his stock as he retired after a collision while running outside the points, while Gasly secured a productive seventh-place finish for Toro Rosso.

Hartley marched on however for the remainder of the season, but with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, forcing him to incessantly look over his shoulder.

To be fair, he was also the unlucky recipient of several mechanical failures that included "hitting birds, being taken out on the first laps, engine penalties, suspension failures and other issues that weren't always mentioned in public".


Improvements came about however in the latter part of the season, reviving the 29-year-old's hopes of perhaps retaining his seat for 2019.

Alas, his fate was likely sealed well before the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi came around.

"An hour [after the race], I was summoned to a meeting," remembers Hartley. "And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver.

"I will miss it," he admits. "I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

"The F1 door is definitely not closed and the experience gained from a year at the top of the sport means I will arrive more prepared and stronger for whatever opportunities come next."

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