Hartley confirmed for F1 drive

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I have grown and learnt so much since the days when I was the Red Bull and Toro Rosso reserve driver, and the tough years I went through made me stronger and even more determined.

"What an fantastic feeling", said the 27-year-old.

New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley will make his F1 debut at the US Grand Prix next week, Toro Rosso confirmed on Friday (Saturday NZ Time).

Hartley was formerly part of the Red Bull Junior Team and has enough Super License points to compete in Formula One; but he is also now contracted to Porsche in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and is purportedly in talks with Chip Ganassi for a 2018 IndyCar deal. "I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it".

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He will make his debut alongside the returning Daniil Kvyat, who had been stood-down by the team at the last two races.

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.

The New Zealander was tipped for a spot in F1 heading into the 2008 season, when Red Bull invited him along to a show run in Saudi Arabia.

However, his F1 opportunity appeared to have passed him by, with his focus switching fully to sports cars in 2014 when he signed up for a season with Porsche alongside former Red Bull driver Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard. He also won the 2015 LMP 1 endurance championship.

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"I could see that when he was 12 years old driving Formula Vees, driving off the track and doing all sorts of insane things, he tried so hard - and Brendon never gave in".

"There is always time to go back to Indycars because he is still young". It is a dream come true for a Kiwi to do what he is doing.

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.

"That's exciting. That is something - being associated with Brendon from when he was a little kid and seeing the talent he had when you see them get right to the top - and he is well worthy of being there", he told Newshub.

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Hartley, this year's Le Mans 24 Hours victor and a world endurance champion, will add his name to a roll call of Kiwi Formula One drivers that now ends with Mike Thackwell in 1984.

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