23 Oct 2017

F1 debut starting to sink in for Hartley

6:01 pm on 23 October 2017

Brendon Hartley has a lot working in his favour, which could tip Torro Rosso's decision to keep him on for next weekend's Formula One round and even beyond, says New Zealand motorsport guru, Bob McMurray.

The New Zealand driver had a promising Formula One debut, finishing 13th at the US Grand Prix this morning in Austin, Texas.

Grand Prix Formula One USA 2017
In the pic: Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso

Grand Prix Formula One USA 2017 In the pic: Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso Photo: PHOTOSPORT

British driver Lewis Hamilton won the US Grand Prix for the fifth time in six years to extend his lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to 66 points with three races remaining.

In an eventful race in which four drivers pulled out, Hartley gained five places after starting 19th on the grid.

New Zealand motorsport guru Bob McMurray said Hartley's debut was encouraging.

"Watching him on timing and things like that I think he had a very solid race. He had a good start although a bit of a slow start but that's understandable, it's his first real start in Formula One. I think overall he did a very good job but it remains to be seen whether the team think that because they will know how much fuel he had on board, his tactics, the strategy and all that sort of stuff but from the outside it certainly looked like he had a good race."

"When you actually look at the final wash-up he finished the race and he finished it very well, he finished it very fast. Overall I think he did a very very good job. He was never expected to win the race, he was never expected to do anything else other than a good job, and that's exactly what he did."

In a statement after the race Hartley said he enjoyed every minute of it.

"It's all starting to sink in now and it won't be until I go to bed tonight and put my eyes at rest that I'll start to process everything.

"I didn't do the best of standing starts, but it's been a long time since I did one of those. After that, I was in many battles and I'm satisfied with my race - the pace was pretty strong, especially at the end. I think the only small mistake I made was getting overtaken by Stroll a quarter into the race, as I couldn't pass him back and he held me up a bit.

"So there's been lots of challenges, lots of things to learn and I hope I get another shot at it to put all these experiences into practice."

Toro Rosso has indicated it is likely to keep the New Zealand driver on for next weekend's Mexico Grand Prix.

McMurray, who spent four decades with McLaren, said Hartley had driven there before and he could fulfill a pivotal role in the team.

"He's got a lot of laps around that place [Mexico circuit] in the LMP1 car, the Porche that he drives.

"And he is a much different driver by his own admission to the driver he was when he first tried Formula One. He is now let's not forget a world champion and a Le Mans winner and he's somebody who helped developed a Formula One car in the Mercedes and that turned out pretty well didn't it. He helped develop that some years ago as a simulator driver. He also helped develop the Porche LMP1 car that he currently drives and that's turned out pretty well."

He said Hartley had skills that could appeal to Torro Rosso longer-term.

"They have a young driver Pierre Gasly in the team and they need another driver in the team that can help develop the car and point the right way for Pierre Gasly especially as next year they have a Honda engine in the car, a whole new car, a whole new engine and it would be very useful to have a driver who can not only drive fast, which Brendon can, but also drive intelligently and give feedback to the team. And I think that is his biggest assest, he's very good at developing and giving feedback and that's what they will probably hinge most of the decision on."

Hamilton eyes title

Mercedes' Hamilton is a step closer to a fourth Formula One world title.

The result means the title battle now moves to Mexico next weekend when Hamilton will need to finish fifth or higher to secure the 2017 crown.

Hamilton took the chequered flag at the Circuit of the Americas more than 10 seconds ahead of Vettel for his fourth straight win at the Austin, Texas circuit, while Mercedes secured a fourth straight constructors' title.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo saw his run of three straight podium finishes and four in the past five races end, the Australian's race finishing on lap 16 with an engine failure following a thrilling duel for third with Valtteri Bottas.

"A big congratulations to the team. They work so hard back at the factory and here," Hamilton said in the podium interviews with Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt.

The 32-year-old Briton has now won five of the past six races in Austin and five of the past six races of the season.

Late drama came with Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtaking Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to get past the Finn for third, right at the end after starting 16th on the grid.

But stewards slapped him with a five-second penalty for cutting the track, a decision which moved him off the podium to fourth.

Hamilton advances to 331 points in the standings, with Vettel on 265 and Bottas on 244.

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