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Hartley seeing things 'a lot clearer' at Toro Rosso

Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13.
© XPB 

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley says that he's really beginning to find his feet in Formula 1, despite continuing speculation that he'll be out of the team at the end of the current season.

The Kiwi was a surprise call-up by the squad for last year's United States Grand Prix. He was then handed a full-year deal for 2018. But so far he's only finished in the top ten twice - in Baku and Hockenheim - which leaves him trailing his team mate Pierre Gasly.

Even though rumours earlier in the season suggested that Lando Norris could replace him as early as the summer, Hartley believes his position is secure - for the time being at least.

“I feel in a good place mentally," he said this week. "Even after the rumours and a bit of pressure early on.

"[It] makes me feel a lot stronger coming out the side of that,” he continued. "I see things a lot clearer. A lot learned.

“There were some tough times in the beginning where I made a couple of mistakes, where I had opportunities to capitalise.

"But I feel in the last four or five races feel like I’ve been on top of things and don’t have the points to show from it."

He missed out again last weekend at the Hungaroring, where he finished in 11th place - just missing out on the final points-paying position.

“Disappointed not to get points on the board on the weekend," he admitted. "I think I did a strong performance all weekend, but sometimes that’s racing.

Hartley said that a poor strategy call had affected his chances in Hungary: "The way the race worked out I wasn’t able to finish in the points.

"I was stuck behind [Carlos] Sainz during the first half of the race when he was on a harder tyre," he explained.

"We then reacted too early to [Nico] Hulkenberg pitting behind and putting the medium tyre, which didn't give me the best performance.

"I made no mistakes, I had a good start but unfortunately no points to show for it.

"I didn’t really feel like I put a foot wrong, which has been a bit the theme in the last five or six races."

Hartley subsequently took part in the in-season test at the circuit in the Pirelli-run entry before signing off for the summer break.

He's now keenly aware that he needs to up his game and deliver breakthrough performances when Formula 1 reconvenes at Spa and Monza if he's to have any realistic chance of extending his stay in F1.

“Some positives," he insisted as he looked ahead. "Some ups and also some downs. I feel like the second half of the first half of the season felt I was strong, luck wasn’t always on my side."

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