Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Monaco, 2018

2018 F1 driver rankings #19: Hartley

2018 F1 season review

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At times it feels like Toro Rosso relish their high rate of driver turnover. Not content with chucking both drivers at the end of 2017, both their replacements have now gone as well, though only Pierre Gasly earned a promotion.

Brendon Hartley, meanwhile, was shown the door shortly after the chequered flag came down on the final race of the year. This seemed to be on the cards early in the season, when rumours about Hartley’s future began to surface, which he admitted caught him by surprise.

His campaign never recovered from a string of knocks in the opening races. In Bahrain he received the team’s latest upgrade a day later than Gasly, then hit a bird in qualifying and wasn’t able to join his team mate in Q3. While Gasly bagged fourth – the team’s best result of the year – Hartley messed up the start protocol, got a penalty, and then collided with Sergio Perez.

He went one worse in China by colliding with his team mate while letting Gasly through for the second time in the race. The in Azerbaijan he failed to notice his team mate catching him in qualifying, resulting in terrifying near-miss which could’ve sent Gasly airborne.

Relations between the pair deteriorated and eventually culminated in Gasly repeatedly ignoring the team’s demands for him to let Hartley by in Brazil. Soon afterwards rumours started to do the rounds that Toro Rosso were looking to replace Hartley with Lando Norris. It didn’t help matters that he smashed up his car in final practice at the Circuit de Catalunya and had to miss qualifying.

Brendon Hartley

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/17
Beat team mate in race 4/12
Races finished 16/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 223/830
Qualifying margin +0.14s (adjusted)
Points 4

Hartley was right to point out a series of misfortunes hindered his attempts to get on terms with his team mate. He was taken out in consecutive starts at Monaco and Montreal by Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll respectively, and a suspension failure caused another big crash at Silverstone.

His one-lap pace compared to Gasly was respectable, too: there only a tenth of a second between them on average. Hartley showed his experience in Germany by over-ruling the team’s call for intermediate tyres to take his second points finish of the year. Nor did Toro Rosso incurring eight penalties on Hartley’s car – the most of any driver – aid his cause.

But Hartley failed to convert any of his chances to score big points. Hungary was a big blow: from eighth on the grid he reversed out of the points and finished there, while Gasly bagged sixth place. Mexico was another squandered opportunity as he failed to reach Q3 and tangled with Esteban Ocon in the race.

His final scoreline against Gasly was bad, though no worse than Daniil Kvyat’s was against Carlos Sainz Jnr 12 months ago. That begs the question why Toro Rosso bothered to give him a chance in the first place if they were going to give up on him this quickly, and suggests the call was as much about Hartley’s relationship with the team as his performance.

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Over to you

I don’t think I’m alone in desperately wanting Hartley to do well for some reason, but he clearly hasn’t cut the mustard this year. He’s had his share of misfortune, but has too often been much slower than Gasly.

Even his high points haven’t been much to shout about, scraping into the points only through retirements or disqualifications. I’m glad he got his chance, but won’t be too sad to see him go.

What’s your verdict on Brendon Hartley’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #19: Hartley”

  1. I thought he would have been much better in the same way I expected Andre Lotterer to surprise people having been so good in WEC prototypes. I guess the gulf between the two disciplines is wider than I thought.

    1. Lotterer never raced a season, so we really don’t know how well he would have done. He did a single Grand Prix, in which he out-qualified Ericsson by 0.999 seconds and retired with a mechanical failure.

    2. I guess it’s doubly-hard to assess a endurance driver against their contemporaries because it’s a team effort – some drivers carry others or excel in certain conditions.

    3. I expected Andre Lotterer to surprise people

      Seriously? In a Caterham? By catching the golden Snitch or what now

  2. i think he did do well for a second season so im a little baffled over kvyats promotion again, the youngsters are popping up like ants on a picnic and sadly Redbull is not a part of them.

  3. Keith, was Vandoorne that bad that you forgot about him or are you actually not ranking him last?

    1. The math only checks out if at least one of the lastname brothers made the cut

      1. @mrboerns – they ran only in the first few races, it would be unfair to assess them purely on those few performances.

        1. they had more highlight moments than Vandoorne though

          1. @johnmilk – quite true :-)

      1. @francorchamps that was doing the runs last years as well. It has flaws that skew the results.

        Plus you can’t trust a ranking that places Vandoorne P9, that’s just, and sorry for the lack of a better word, stupid.

        1. @johnmilk While I do think that Vandoorne’s ranking is too high in the model, especially given that he was much closer to Alonso last year, the uncompetitiveness of his car makes it hard to judge him. For most of the year I don’t think the McLaren was any better than the Williams, and probably slower than the other teams, so outscoring the Williams drivers, Hartley and Ericsson was some achievement. I do think that in this particular case a reversed ceiling effect caused Vandoorne’s rating to be inflated.

          1. @f1infigures the McLaren was better throughout the season than the Williams and the STR

        2. @johnmilk Of course we will never know which car is better for sure, but I think there are enough indicators that seem to suggest the Toro Rosso was in fact the faster car. In the second half of the season the McLarens regularly battled with Williams over the final two rows, even though they had arguably much better drivers. Toro Rosso were generally faster too with a pretty much average driver line-up as well, even though they seemed to fade in the races.

          1. @f1infigures for sure on average throughout the year the McLaren was better

            arguably much better drivers

            Arguably being the key word in that sentence. Gasly was a much better F1 driver than Vandoorne, in this one performed at Hartley kind of levels

    2. I suppose that’s due to vandoorne being against alonso, on the face of pure 1-lap pace he didn’t perform worse than massa or raikkonen against alonso.

  4. I thought a major part of the Toro Rosso driver’ role this season was to help with developing the Honda engine for next year. If so getting premier results wasn’t a job requirement for this season, but driving the way Honda wanted was. To me, this was essential so they could improve the engine and get it ready for next season.
    I believe Hartley was Toro Rosso’s leading driver in this role, and that his contribution was far greater than that of Gasley.

    1. I believe Hartley was Toro Rosso’s leading driver in this role, and that his contribution was far greater than that of Gasley.

      What is the reason behind that belief, @drycrust? (serious question).
      I guess that the development part will have seriously impacted their amount of PU components, and turning down (or up) PU performance to test it.
      But how does qualifying and racing behind your teammate help PU development?

  5. Although he lost quite a few points due to things out of his control, he still overall didn’t impress too much over, the course of the season. Just not enough to get another shot next season.

  6. Hartley did get totally shafted by strategy in Hungary. The team cost him points that day, not his driving effort, after a fine qualifying session. His weird Bahrain weekend didn’t help matters. He fluffed the start in Japan, which may have cost him points, although Gasly made a good start and he too went backwards, as the TR had poor race-pace.

    Seems like Honda loved him, so he obviously helped develop things on the engine front, which RBR will benefit from in 2019. I think he deserved another year, with good races in Baku, Austria, Germany, USA, and Brazil. He had some rotten luck and improved a lot. He didn’t disgrace himself. It sure is a rough business and let’s hope he’s back in a competitive series soon!

    1. @roodda I must say I was disappointed with Toro Rosso’s season. The Honda engine seemed to perform reasonably well, or at least better than expected, but still they only managed to beat the struggling Williams team. Either the chassis wasn’t very good or the drivers weren’t and I think it’s the latter. Gasly had a couple of very strong drives that seemed to indicate the car was pretty good, but for some reason he was off the pace in many races. The poor Toro Rosso strategies didn’t help him either (who thought it was a good idea to switch him to wet-weather tires on a barely wet track in Germany?), but overall I think Gasly’s problem in many races was tire management, which cost him positions at the end of the race. As for Hartley, he had the same lows as Gasly, but without the highs. He regularly flat-spotted his tires at the start, which didn’t help him either. I think Kvyat will be a significant improvement over these drivers if he has his head in the right place. With a better driver line-up Toro Rosso would have finished much higher in the championship.

  7. My prediction of Keith’s rankings (using the teammate battle articles as the base):

    18. Stroll
    17. Vandoorne
    16. Ericsson
    15. Grosjean
    14. Magnussen
    13. Gasly
    12. Sainz
    11. Perez
    10. Ocon
    9. Bottas
    8. Hulkenberg
    7. Raikkonen
    6. Ricciardo
    5. Vettel
    4. Alonso
    3. Leclerc
    2. Verstappen
    1. Hamilton

    I might be horribly off on some of the predictions…Keith hasn’t rated Raikkonen in the top 10 in the last few years, but his performance this year was much better 😅. I’m also doubtful of Alonso and Leclerc’s positions, but I just can’t imagine Vettel in the top 4…

    Above all, I hope Hulkenberg can avoid being ranked 9th for the fourth consecutive year.

    1. you’re probably not too far off, @neutronstar.
      Of course, Vandoorne should be behind Stroll; but Stroll cannot be too far ahead of Sirotkin (catch 22).
      Gasly might be a few steps higher (he had some really good races).
      And I understand Keith if he puts Raikkonen a bit lower. A decent end of season, but don’t forget he was driving the best car in many races and not much to show for it.

      1. @coldfly I agree that Gasly had a few great performances, but I wasn’t too impressed with his proximity to Hartley towards the end of the season and Keith did point out that Hartley was closer by the end. Gasly was ranked 8th in the midseason rankings, though, so you may be right.

        1. so you may be right

          Maybe. But all I can say now is that ‘you were right’ regarding Stroll ;)

    2. Sounds pretty spot on, the biggest complaint I’d have on that list is verstappen’s first half of the season was too bad for p2, but apart from that seems good.

  8. Decent but generally slow. If he was a bit closer to Gasly over the whole season I think he’d have easily kept the seat, but the gulf between him and Gasly was so large at times it was obvious they’d not keep him.

  9. So what’s the story behind the ‘+0.14s (adjusted)’ quali margin?

  10. As an Aussie I was hoping this Kiwi had a great year and proved many wrong and had a few great years in F1.
    Unfortunately its not to be, but he can be proud of his efforts as I think he gave it his all!!
    He is a World Champion so can pretty well pick what he wants to drive next year out of F1- best of luck !!

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