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Hartley ready to prove he belongs in F1

Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
© XPB 

Brendon Hartley is heading to the Australian Grand Prix next week determined to show he belongs in Formula 1.

"Becoming an F1 driver was a dream come true,' Hartley said this week. "But now I want to prove I belong here.

"That will take even more hard work and dedication, and support from the ones around me."

The 28-year-old New Zealander made his début in last year's United States Grand Prix. Originally expected to be a one-off appearance sitting in for Pierre Gasly, Hartley ended up racing for Toro Rosso for the rest of the season - while simultaneously seeing out the final races in the World Endurance Championship.

"It all happened very quickly with little or no time to prepare," Hartley recalled. "On the other hand I felt like I had been preparing for that all my life.

"I don't know how many times I flew around the world in the last two months of the [2017] season, but I was crossing time zones and every second day I was on a plane.

"It can be tiring, but at the same time I'm not going to complain about it," he said. "I took a decision to keep it simple, not overthink it, and make sure I enjoy it."

Now he's officially the team's full-time driver for 2018 alongside Gasly, having permanently ousted Daniil Kvyat from the race seat.

"I have the dream job," he acknowledged. "There is a lot of pressure that goes with it, but I've made a real conscious effort to enjoy my time here.

"You see some people don't," he added, perhaps thinking of his predecessor at Toro Rosso. "All they feel is that pressure and don't take the time to enjoy what they're doing."

Hartley doesn't expect to be unduly bothered by the pressure of being in the F1 spotlight. His win in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche shows he's up to any such stress.

"Representing Porsche at Le Mans came with huge pressure," he agreed. "In my eyes this experience has prepared me well.

Le Mans race winners Brendon Hartley (NZL), Earl Bamber (NZL), Timo Bernhard (GER) #02 Porsche LMP Team

"I was lucky enough to work along side some of the best drivers and engineers you can find," he added.

Since moving full time into the F1 paddock, the Kiwi has been focussed on improving his overall fitness ahead of the season opener.

"I'm fitter than I ever have been," he insisted. "But there is no hiding the fact that modern Formula 1 cars put brutal demands on the body.

"The humid streets of Singapore will possibly be the biggest test," he mused. "Some heat training in the lead up to the race will be crucial."

As for predictions about he will perform, Hartley says that Toro Rosso is targeting as many top ten finishes in 2018 as possible.

"It's a team sport so it's hard to put a exact number on the goal," he added. "But the target is to score consistently in the points."

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