The quiet determination of Brendon Hartley

By Richard Bosselman on Mon, 2 Apr 2018

‘‘If you think he's good, wait until you see his kid brother.'' It's 16 years since I was told that, one afternoon at Manfeild watching Nelson Hartley, son of Bryan, at that point well known for being expert drivers on the Manawatu circuit. I saw the kid back in the pits later that day.

Fast-forward to Sunday, March 25, 2018. The shy boy of 2002 has just completed the closest thing to a ‘‘home'' race in Formula One.

The Australian Grand Prix has not gone as well as Brendon Hartley had hoped.

A severely flat spotted tyre dashed the Palmy boy's hopes of scoring his maiden Formula 1 point at the Albert Park circuit; forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on the opening lap after suffering a huge lock-up on the run to the first corner from the start, he dropped from 16th on the starting grid to last.

The team cannily swapped from ultra-soft to supersoft tyres, a prescient call that all others were to mirror. Hartley was closing on the field . . . then, cruelly, another blow: a puncture. Every second regained was lost, and then some. Hartley reached the finish in 15th position, albeit a lap down, as the last classified finisher. But - despite setting a fastest lap time better than several ahead of him - too low to get the prize he sought, a championship point.

The race performance suggests Toro Rosso's move away from Renault to a Honda engine for 2018 has not been beneficial; Hartley's car was, even when running optimally, at best two seconds slower per lap than Vettel's winning Ferrari. Also, Hartley's team-mate, Pierre Gasly, retired after 13 laps when he suddenly lost power. Honda cannot afford another dark year.

So, perhaps a tough season ahead. But I cannot tell you how proud I, my wife and my friends felt being trackside to spur on the kid we last saw race as a teen make history, as the first Kiwi to contest an Australian F1 world championship round.

From Friday practice to Sunday race-end, we cheered his every lap and were delighted when, on the pre-race drivers' parade, he acknowledged our silver fern banner in a sea of Ferrari red and Mercedes silver teamwear.

Win or lose, finish or DNF, Hartley is our champion. Why? Because he's a humble battler.

In the week prior to Melbourne, he penned an online piece talking about how incredibly fortunate he felt about getting this chance. Here's the link:www.theplayers tribune.com/en-us/articles/brendon-hartley-formula-onethe-rookie.

It's a greatinsight intohow far quiet determination, resilience and self-belief can take someone.

Richard Bosselman

Senior contributor

Drivesouth