New Zealand teenager Brendon Hartley has been confirmed as the official test driver for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso, following Sebastien Buemi’s promotion to the latter’s race team.
I met Hartley at Oulton Park last year during a Formula Three race. He was not in a fantastic mood having just been beaten to pole position team mate Jaime Alguersuari. I didn’t get to see him the following day after the pair shunted their Red Bull-backed Carlins at the hairpin, but I can’t imagine he was much happier after that either.
Alguersuari beat him (and fellow Carlin driver Oliver Turvey) to the title but all three showed a lot of promise last year. While Hartley races in the F3 Euroseries this year Aguersuari and Turvey have stepped up to the World Series by Renault, which unearthed such F1 talents as Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica and (in an earlier form) Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull have put a lot of money into their young driver programme and, Vettel aside, haven’t got a huge amount to show for it. Hartley is yet one more driver to find his way onto the scheme, but grabbing this testing opportunity at such a young age (19) will help him on the road to the F1 drive he talked about when I met him.
Hartley seems to have taken a leaf out of another Red Bull driver’s book of style: Vitantonio Liuzzi. He had some complicated hat arrangement perched on his head when I met him, with two enormous tassels dangling around his waist. I understand this wasn’t the consequence of a lost wager and was in fact his regular headgear.