Brendon Hartley was surprised to learn of speculation about his future with Toro Rosso in Formula 1 after a difficult start to the 2018 season, but is eager to bounce back with a clean maiden outing in Monaco this weekend.

Former Porsche LMP1 star Hartley has just one point to his name following the first five races of the season with Toro Rosso, picked up in Baku, with teammate Pierre Gasly picking up 12 after a charge to P4 in Bahrain last month.

Hartley tangled with Gasly on-track during the Chinese Grand Prix and had a near-miss with his teammate two weeks later in Baku during qualifying, but most significantly crashed out at high-speed during FP3 in Spain, severely damaging his car.

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The New Zealander’s early-season struggles led to suggestions in some areas of the media - including on British TV  that he could be replaced if he did not pick up his form, with Mercedes youngster Pascal Wehrlein being linked to the seat.

“I was surprised to hear that. I have a contract, so I was surprised to hear,” Hartley said when asked by Crash.net about the speculation.

“Formula 1 obviously moves quickly. There are plenty of critics. As a driver, you’re your own biggest critic. I had two weekends not completely clean. In fairness I scored my first point in Azerbaijan. The first three races of the year, I was ahead in qualifying for two of the three. Ultimately we’ve not had the pace to be in the points all the time.

“There’s always a lot of rumours in Formula 1, so as a driver, it’s better not to read too much. I know that I’m a team player. I’m working very hard behind the scenes. I know I’m more than capable. I think I’ve showed that in the first three qualifyings of the year. Since then I haven’t even done a lap in qualifying.

“I think people sometimes have quite short memories in Formula 1. Things move very quick, and from one weekend to the next, the whole story can be a very different one.”

Hartley heads into his first Monaco Grand Prix weekend hopeful of a return to the points, with the slow-speed nature of the circuit poised to play towards Toro Rosso’s strengths.

“Generally speaking on the very slow speed corners, that’s been one of our strengths, so I would like to think the track plays to our strengths,” Hartley said.

“The team was fast here last year, so there’s no reason it can’t be a good weekend. It’s going to be a lot hotter and we have the Hypersofts, so I think some of the tyre issues we’ve maybe experienced compared to others won’t be as dominant as the last races.

“I go into the race with confidence, and see no reason why we can’t have a strong weekend.”

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