Brendon Hartley is treating his upcoming test outing with Red Bull 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso as a 'big opportunity' to prove his worth, as a whole raft of young drivers prepare to snatch their chance to shine at Jerez in early December.
Long a Red Bull protégé, Hartley acted as Red Bull Racing reserve driver this year until he stepped down during the summer to concentrate on his dual F3 Euroseries and World Series by Renault commitments with Carlin Motorsport and Tech 1 Racing respectively. That arguably saw the New Zealander miss out on making his F1 debut for STR when Sébastien Bourdais was unceremoniously dumped back in July, with the seat instead going to his replacement, fellow World Series graduate Jaime Alguersuari.
However, following a seat-fitting at Faenza on his 20th birthday earlier this week, Hartley – who has been supported by the energy drinks giant since he was 15 – is now revving up to get back behind the wheel again during the special 'young driver training' session early next month, open to competitors with three grand prix starts or less under their belt.
Others set to take to the track in southern Spain include the top three contenders from the Italian F3 Championship – Italians Daniel Zampieri and Marco Zipoli and Mexican teenager Pablo Sánchez López – at Ferrari, F1 2010 newcomer Nico Hülkenberg and recently-crowned FIA Formula Two Champion Andy Soucek at Williams, British F3 Champion Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, Formula BMW title-winners Alexander Rossi and Esteban Gutierrez at BMW-Sauber, test driver Lucas di Grassi and World Series king Bertrand Baguette at Renault and Force India with a likely line-up of experienced GP2 Series campaigner Karun Chandhok and former A1GP World Cup of Motorsport Champion Neel Jani.
Alongside Hartley in the STR garage will be Italian Formula Two contender Mirko Bortolotti, another driver from the Red Bull stable – but having driven at Jerez before in F1 pre-season testing this year following Mark Webber's cycling accident, the Palmerston North native insisted that he would be focussing solely upon his own work.
“There's nothing you can say about times,” he is quoted as having said by TVNZ
, “as all the teams are developing their cars for next year because of regulation changes. The cars will be about 200 kilos heavier than this year (due to the ban on refuelling in 2010), and that's quite a fundamental change. That means brakes, tyres, aerodynamics – everything revolves around the fact the cars are going to be heavier.
“I don't think it's a competitive test for the drivers, but I think in the team we'll show whether we are doing a good job or not. It's going to be great fun driving a F1 car again and it's another big opportunity for myself – Toro Rosso is the young drivers' team and it's important to have a good test if I want to be there in the future.”