Ex-Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley has opened up on his Formula 1 departure following the 2018 season. The Kiwi competed for the Red Bull junior squad through the year, having made his debut towards the end of the 2017 campaign.
Hartley failed to mirror the results of teammate Pierre Gasly, who was subsequently promoted to Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo announced his departure. However, the WEC champion was hit with some poor luck throughout the year.
Rumours early on in the season indicated that Toro Rosso was hunting McLaren junior Lando Norris, and was hoping to bring him in on loan. Hartley's future post-season was in major doubt, and it was then announced that he had been ousted in favour of Formula 2's Alexander Albon.
"An hour [after the race], I was summoned to a meeting," Harltey wrote in The Players' Tribune. "And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver. In the meeting there wasn't much said. It was clear to me then that from as far back as Monaco there was a plan in motion to move me on."
Hartley claims that he started to hear about his exit rumours at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, and was horrified on the Wednesday before the weekend that "the worst part of that day was finding out there was some truth to the rumours".
"I walked back to our apartment that night looking at the walls of the Monte Carlo circuit, knowing that, if I binned it, if I made contact with those walls this weekend, my F1 career might end in a few days.
"I knew every practice session carried more weight for me. Every lap time, every result was going to be under scrutiny and could be used against me to leverage my seat."
Hartley admitted that he will miss F1, but couldn't help feeling a little ill-fated after a season of "hitting birds, being taken out on the first laps, engine penalties, suspension failures and other issues that weren't always mentioned in public".
"I will miss it," said Hartley. "I'd be lying if I said otherwise. The F1 door is definitely not closed and the experience gained from a year at the top of the sport means I will arrive more prepared and stronger for whatever opportunities come next."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing