MARCH 10, 2009

Hartley gets double role

Brendon Hartley, the 19-year-old New Zealand driver, will be reserve driver for both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009.

The Formula Renault Eurocup Champion of 2007, Hartley is a member of the Red Bull Junior Team and this year will be racing for Carlin Motorsport in the Formula 3 Eurocup, having finished third in the British F3 Championship last season. He had his first taste of F1 a year ago with a demonstration run in Saudi Arabia and has since done several tests for the two Red Bull teams.

With the in-season testing ban this will mean that there will be little work to be done but Hartley could be called in if any of the four drivers are unable to compete in a race. If that were to happen Hartley would become the first New Zealander to compete in F1 for 29 years, the last being Mike Thackwell, who took part in the Canadian GP of 1980 in a third Tyrrell. Thackwell's career was limited to a few hundred metres of racing as the race was stopped because of an accident and his car was commandeered by one of his team-mates. As the first start was declared null and void some argue that he never made his F1 debut. At the time Thackwell was the youngest F1 driver at 19. Thackwell suffered head and foot injuries in an accident at Thruxton the following year in Formula 2 and although he later returned to F2 and was runner-up in the European Championship to Jonathan Palmer in 1983 and won the title in 1984 he never made it in F1, despite a number of tests and attempts to qualify for other teams. He then went to the United States before settling into a career in sports car racing. He partnered Henri Pescarolo to win the Nurburgring 1000 for Sauber-Mercedes in 1986, the first major victory for Mercedes-Benz in the modern era. At the end of 1987, at the age of only 26, he walked away from the sport.

New Zealand has a glorious F1 history thanks to the efforts of 1967 World Champion Denny Hulme, McLaren founder Bruce McLaren and unlucky star Chris Amon. The country also produced the likes of Howden Ganley, Graeme McRae, F1 racer turned engine tuner John Nicholson and the little-known Tony Shelly.