Second drive reward for Hartley

By David Thomson on Sat, 28 Oct 2017

Less than 24 hours passed between the conclusion of last weekend's United States Grand Prix and the Torro Rosso Formula One team's confirmation that Brendon Hartley will drive for it again at this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix. News quickly followed that he would stay with the team for the rest of the season, also driving in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

That's a fair reward, in my view, for an F1 debut that has been variously described in the media as composed, solid, meritorious, and mature. Clearly Torro Rosso saw enough promise to prefer him over his teammate of last weekend, Russian racer Daniil Kyvat.

In Mexico the Kiwi will line up alongside young Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who has already contested the Malaysian and Japanese Grand Prix for Torro Rosso this season. His results from those two races - a 14th and 13th placing - show a similar level of initial F1 achievement to Hartley.

Along with the fact that he secured a decent finish in an unruffled way, one of the things that will have impressed the Torro Rosso team will surely have been Hartley's peak race pace: he was one of only seven drivers to post a sub-1min40s lap during last weekend's grand prix. Although he achieved a superior final placing, Kyvat's quickest single lap was a full second slower that Hartley's best.

The match-up between Hartley and Gasly is going to be fascinating this weekend.

The final races of the F1 season slot neatly around Hartley's existing world endurance racing championship commitments, but he will be busy.

If matching yourself against a single teammate is tough, spare a thought for Hayden Paddon, who is lining up as one of four factory drivers for Hyundai at Rally GB this weekend. His regular team-mates, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, are joined by Andreas Mikkelsen, who replaced Paddon in the team at the last championship round in Spain.

It's no secret Paddon is under real pressure to perform after a season that has failed to deliver on either his or his team's expectations. A saving grace from the most recent Spanish round of the WRC is that it was - in Paddon's absence from the driving seat - a disaster for Hyundai, with all three drivers striking major problems.

Paddon might also take inspiration from the Spanish WRC winner, British driver Kris Meeke. Up until Spain, Meeke had had an up-and-down season that included five retirements and just one top-10 finish from nine starts. Somehow he put all that (and uncertainty over his future with his team) behind him to score a great win in Spain.

Not letting recent results get to him is exactly what Paddon needs to do at Rally GB this weekend, and again at the season-ending Rally Australia next month.

David Thomson