Brendon Hartley feels he has landed on his feet since his exit from Formula 1 at the end of last season, calling his current balance across programmes an “ideal situation”.
Hartley learned hours after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he had been dropped by Toro Rosso, leaving the New Zealander without a drive for the 2019 season.
However, he has since secured a return to the FIA World Endurance Championship as part of Toyota’s LMP1 line-up for the 2019-20 season, replacing Fernando Alonso, as well as holding a development role with Porsche’s Formula E programme.
Hartley also retains links to F1 via a simulator role at Ferrari, with whom he has been present at a number of grands prix this year.
The return to the WEC saw Hartley come full circle after previously racing with Porsche in LMP1 between 2014 and 2017, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two world titles in that period.
“I think [WEC] was definitely one of the options, and my most favoured one considering my history in endurance racing, the fact that I love Le Mans and these LMP1 hybrids,” Hartley told Crash.net.
“It quickly became apparent that there was maybe a potential opportunity. Obviously I explored many options, and I’m happy that I was able to retain my Porsche contract as well and contribute on their Formula E project, and also my work at Ferrari. I managed to keep myself very busy.
“Although I’ve only done two races on the same weekend at Sebring, I have been busy with all my development roles and my preparation for this next season with Toyota.
“I think it’s really the ideal situation for me after the end of last year. Well, the ideal would have been to continue in Formula 1. I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things, and I felt very strong at the end of last season, so I was obviously disappointed not to continue in Formula 1.
“But with that news after Abu Dhabi, I think the situation I’m currently sitting in is really the best I could have imagined.
“I think it’s fair to say that I landed on my feet. I’m really happy about what the future may hold.”
Hartley will race alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima for Toyota in the WEC next season, and spent Le Mans embedding himself within the team as its official reserve driver. He has also completed his first running in the Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car, with a test at Spa being followed by a brief outing during the Le Mans test day.
“You always have a few nerves when you drive a car for the first time, you don’t know what it’s going to feel like,” Hartley said.
“I felt good in the car straight away when I drove it at Spa. I think I had my real first experience at the Le Mans test day. Three laps wasn’t enough. I was a bit disappointed when I got called to box this lap!
“It felt good. A lot of the systems are different, but the sensations of driving an incredible car, these LMP1 hybrids around Le Mans, was very similar to what I remember.
“These cars were really made for Le Mans, and feel incredible around here, and I can’t wait to be back in the race next year.
“I think I’m coming back to WEC a much more established and experienced driver. I feel very confident coming into my new role with great teammates and a very well-established team, and I’m hoping that I’m going to fit straight in.”