Rising Kiwi motor racing star, Brendon Hartley, took another step on his path to getting a Formula 1 driver with a successful test with Red Bull Racing at Jerez, Spain, yesterday
That made the 19-year-old from Palmerston North, the first New Zealander since the early 1980s to be eligible to apply for a Formula 1 Super Licence.
He covered 83 laps of the 4.4 km Spanish circuit and quickly showed his potential, ending the day third fastest, three-tenths of a second slower than 2008 Grand Prix winner, BMW-Sauber driver, Nick Heidfeld. Sebastien Buemi, Red Bull’s regular test driver, set the day’s fastest lap.
“I’m feeling pretty happy because I made no mistakes and I was setting consistent lap times,” Hartley said on Monday. “I think the team were pleased with my speed and the feedback I was giving the engineers.
“Formula 1 is obviously a lot faster than what I’m used to and there are a lot of new things to think about in controlling the car and getting your brain up to speed.
“There’s a lot to learn with all the control systems operated by hand from the steering wheel and I was a bit nervous before the start, but I (adapted) and got my brain up to speed for the fast reaction times.
“My lap times improved steadily throughout the day and I was pleased how soon I had the feel of the car and could drive fast and consistent laps.”
Hartley ran new tyres in the early sessions and by lunchtime was second fastest, less than a second behind Beumi in the other Red Bull.
“During the afternoon runs I was evaluating different set-ups on older tyres, but I (still) put in good lap times and equalled the time I’d done earlier on the new tyres,” he said. “My overall impression was just how fast a Formula car goes, the corners arrive very quickly.”
By completing an incident-free first outing in an official Formula 1 test session, Hartley has met the standard required for the FIA to consider an application for a F1 Super Licence. The last New Zealander to achieve F1 status was Mike Thackwell in 1984.
Hartley will announce his 2009 racing plans in the next few weeks, but he’s like to be seen in European Formula 3 after a highly-successful year in the 2008 British series.
Test times from the F1 test, Jerez, December 15
1. Sebastien Buemi, Red Bull-Renault, 1m 17.704s.
2. Nick Heidfeld, BMW-Sauber, 1m 19.223s.
3. Brendon Hartley, Red Bull-Renault, 1m 19.586s.
4. Christian Klien, BMW-Sauber, 1m 19.655s.
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams-Toyota, 1m 20.704s.