The young kiwi's Euro Formula 3 campaign starts in Hockenheim this weekend
Just a few days after his debut with the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team as reserve driver at the Spanish Grand Prix, Brendon Hartley turns his focus on the European Formula 3 Championship at Hockenheim in Germany this weekend.
The 10-round championship runs on the same European programme as the World Touring Car Championship and has a rich reputation for developing young F1 talent. The series begins its seventh season with an entry of 28 drivers and sees Hartley racing against the sons of two of the great names in motorsport.
The Venezuelan driver Johnny Cecotto Jnr. is the 20-year-old son of the famous racing driver and motorcycle World Champion and Adrien Tambay is the 17-year-old son of Patrick Tambay who drove for a variety of teams in F1 including Ferrari and McLaren.
Once again, the Formula 3 Euro Series grid is an international mix with 16 different national flags and some of the world’s best junior drivers looking to emulate the likes of 2005 Champion Lewis Hamilton or the runner-up of the 2006 season, Sebastian Vettel.
In Britain last season Hartley raced a Mercedes-engined Dallara to five wins. For his switch to the Euro Championship he is again running with the British Carlin Motorsport team but the kiwi is one of six drivers competing with a newly developed Volkswagen engine.
German engine manufacturers Mercedes and VW are going head-to-head in 2009. Mercedes have won the Euro F3 title five times but Volkswagen engines have only been competing in the Euro Series for one and a half years.
Edoardo Mortara celebrated the maiden Volkswagen-engine win at the Pau street race last season and VW drivers Robert Wickens and Franck Mailleux also celebrated a race win each in 2008.
At the end of the season, Italian Mortara proved to be the best Volkswagen driver by finishing runner-up in the Euro Championship and coming second in the world’s most prestigious Formula 3 race - the Macau Grand Prix. Toyota took victory at Macau while Hartley was the leading Mercedes runner in third spot on the podium.
This season all the teams will be racing the same Italian Dallara chassis, the latest F308 model but for Hartley there is switch from the British Avon racing tyres of last season, to the Kumho tyres used in Europe.
Nico Hülkenberg claimed the title last season, becoming the fifth consecutive Euro F3 Series Champion powered by Mercedes. He followed in the footsteps of Romain Grosjean (2007), Paul di Resta (2006), Lewis Hamilton (2005) and Jamie Green (2004). Mercedes-Benz has been involved in the Formula 3 Euro Series since it began back in 2003 with the inaugural Euro F3 Series title going to Aussie Ryan Briscoe with an Opel-engined Dallara.
In the six seasons contested to date, Mercedes engines have secured 94 race wins, 74 pole positions and scored a total of 2906.5 championship points. Volkswagen has got 125 championship points and three race wins on its tally.
Brendon Hartley and his 19-year-old American team mate Jake Rosenzweig showed good form during pre-season testing in Spain. Both drivers finished the final session in the top ten during the two day test at Valencia, with Hartley finishing fourth quickest and the top VW runner.
Hartley said, "We've had a positive test overall. I think we were particularly competitive on the second morning of testing - we set our quickest time later than everyone else, when the track was a bit slower, so I think we could have been even quicker than the time sheets suggested. I was ‘P4’ for the whole test which is reasonably encouraging, but we still need to find a bit more time.
“Both Volkswagen and the team are working really hard to improve ahead of the first race, and I've been really impressed with the package they've put together. We won't see exactly where we are compared to the other teams until the first race, but I'm feeling confident."
European Formula 3 Championship 2009 Calendar
May 17 Hockenheim Germany
May 31 EuroSpeedway Lausitz Germany
June 28 Norisring Germany
July 19 Zandvoort Holland
August 2 Oschersleben Germany
August 16 Nurburgring Germany
September 6 Brands Hatch Great Britain
September 20 Barcelona Spain
October 11 Dijon Prenois France
October 25 Hockenheim Germany