Toro Rosso keep F1 guessing ahead of US Grand Prix

Hartley in contention for Toro Rosso USGP drive

Kenny Smith, who according to the New Zealand media source Newshub is Hartley's "mentor", thinks the driver will jump at the chance to race for Toro Rosso next weekend.

Hartley is a leading contender to take a fulltime drive with the team in 2018.

The 27-year-old and Porsche factory driver is no stranger to F1, having been Red Bull's reserve driver in 2009 and 2010 before he was dropped from the company's driver development program.

Hartley's F1 debut comes at the end of a rollercoaster season for the New Zealander that has seen him fight back to a maiden victory at Le Mans, as well as winning Petit Le Mans last weekend in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale.

When a teenage Hartley first came to Europe from his native New Zealand, Kvyat was a 12-year-old racing karts in Russian Federation.

Hartley will partner Kvyat in the U.S., with the latter having regained a Toro Rosso seat due to Carlos Sainz's move to Renault being brought forward.

Hartley said: "This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1".

Hartley becomes New Zealand's first Formula One driver since Mike Thackwell in 1984.

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"The Austin track is one I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently".

With that in mind, Toro Rosso and Red Bull have lined up Buemi, who raced for Red Bull's junior team between 2009 and 2011, to step in if a deal for Hartley can not be agreed.

'I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull for making this a reality, and to Porsche for allowing me to do this alongside the World Endurance Championship. "I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it".

The 2017 Le Mans victor has emerged as a front-runner to gain the US Grand Prix audition after years as a reserve driver and time in the junior programme with the Red Bull team.

Sebastien Buemi is considered the back-up driver if a deal with Hartley can't be done.

Hartley was not content with sticking around the F1 paddock as a reserve driver and began racing in endurance events in 2012 - the same year he joined Mercedes as a test driver.

Brendon Hartley: "What an fantastic feeling!"

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