Hartley explains why he missed out on Porsche Formula E role

When it comes to sportscar racing, former Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley has been long associated with Porsche and was a key part of the works team’s 2017 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

So it was something of a surprise when the German manufacturer decided not to include the New Zealander in its driver line-up for its maiden season in the ABB FIA Formula E championship.

Hartley explained that Porsche had decided it needed to have a more experienced line-up in place to help it hit the ground running in its first campaign in the all-electric series.

With that in mind, Porsche signed Andre Lotterer from the title-winning Techeetah team to partner Neel Jani, who will make his series debut in Formula E in the season opener in Diriyah on Friday.

“I would have loved to have taken the seat but there was never a promise,” Hartley told Autosport magazine this week. “There was always the chance – even late on into the project, I was doing a good job in testing

“But I think for them to take two rookies it would have been a high risk,” he acknowledged. “I always understood Neel was already signed, so it made sense that they took another driver with experience – a known quantity.”

“I always knew that that could have been on the cards,” he said, insisting that he harboured no bad feelings over the outcome.

Hartley will still be on the grid for the doubleheader even after securing a spot with the GEOX Dragon Racing team instead alongside Nico Muller.

“There is no animosity from my side they were incredibly fair to actually allow me to go and take on an opportunity in another race team.

“I have to thank them for that and now I am really looking forward to this new project with Dragon.”

GEOX Dragon Racing on track.

©GeoxDragon

The 30-year-old from Palmerston North predicted that Porsche would be competitive straight out of the gate, and said that there was bound to be a “friendly rivalry” between the works team and himself.

“I’m sure I’m still welcome to go down and have a coffee and say ‘g’day’,” he said.

However the switch does mean that he will give up his role as a Porsche factory driver, as there’s “obviously a conflict if we’re competing against each other”.

“I’d like to think I’ll always be somewhat a part of the family, but contractually I won’t be involved next year.”

With Porsche no longer taking part in the World Endurance Championship, Hartley is now putting his sportscar experience to good use by linking up with the Toyota LMP1 team in place of Fernando Alonso. That makes him a WEC team mate with Formula E rival Sebastian Buemi.

The schedules for the two series clash in March, with Hartley opting to take part in the Sebring 12 hours event over Formula E’s visit to China the same weekend.

“Contractually for me the WEC takes priority,” he explained. “It’s not ideal, but I’m happy to still have the opportunity to take part in both championships.”

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Hartley feels he is getting the better of Gasly

Brendon Hartley believes he is doing what has been asked of him if he wants to keep his Toro Rosso seat for 2019.

Hartley has been told by Toro Rosso that, in order to stay with the Red Bull junior team for a second year, he must start beating his team-mate Pierre Gasly, whose performances this season have led to a move to Red Bull next year.

Starting from the back of the grid in Austin, due to engine and gearbox penalties, the New Zealander battled valiantly to P11 before the disqualifications of Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen boosted him into P9 – his best finish of the season.

With Gasly finishing P12, Hartley says that his USA result is a continuation of his good form against his team-mate.

“It was a good one. I feel like I’ve been performing well in the last events.” Hartley said.

“Obviously every weekend I am answering questions about my future or reading about it or read in the press I need to beat my teammate.

“But in fact Singapore, I was ahead in the race before I had team orders and I was boxed again.

“I was ahead in Russia before the car broke, I was ahead in qualifying in Suzuka and I was ahead again today.

“So, let’s see what happens.”

Hartley then added to Motorsport.com: “It’s obviously been annoying to answer questions about my future all the time, I’ve said it a few times already.

“I feel like I’m doing the job and deserve to stay here.”

Hartley has three more races to continue to prove his worth, but Toro Rosso are actively pursuing Alexander Albon and are currently in negotiations with Nissan to release him from his Formula E contract.

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