Brendon on the fast track to fulfilling F1 dream
Brendon on the fast track to fulfilling Formula 1 Champion dream
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23 January 2008 Auckland: Teenage motorsport sensation Brendon Hartley has been driving since he was six years old and dreaming of the day he will take the wheel of a Formula 1 racing car.
The 2007 European Formula Renault series champion is one of four finalists in the Westpac Emerging Talent category at the 2007 Westpac Halberg Awards.
The Palmerston North 18-year-old says he was born into a “real petrol-head family” and “unleashed into a into a crazy motorsport environment.” With a dad who builds engines and a mum who used to race minis, Brendon says it has always been his dream to arrive at Formula 1 “in the next two years, in a perfect world,” he says.
Karting since he was six, Brendon progressed to race-cars at just 13 and has been placing in races ever since. In 2003, he was the youngest driver in New Zealand’s motorsport history to gain pole positions and score wins in the National Formula Ford Championship.
Brendon attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School where was a self-confessed “typical rebellious teenager.” He played roller hockey at rep level but found it difficult focussing on other sports because motorsport was all-consuming.
Brendon’s international career began in 2005 after he was invited to the Red Bull driver search at Estoril, Portugal. He says his dream began looking more achievable when a promising performance saw him signed up in the exclusive junior development driver programme for Formula 1.
“I’m starting to realise what talented Kiwis like Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon achieved in international motor racing,” he says.
Kiwi motoring ace Chris Amon is confident Brendon has what it takes to reach the top. “I’ve been despairing over the years about whether there will ever be another Formula 1 driver come from New Zealand,” he says. “But after Brendon’s almost perfect career path to date he has a good chance of making it. Brendon has huge talent and I’m really excited about his prospects,” he says.
In 2006, aged 16, Brendon spent his first season living alone in East Germany where he finished 14th overall in the Euro Cup. Although he says the experience was emotionally difficult, Brendon says he thinks it has made him a lot stronger. “It was good for me,” he says. “I learned a lot.”
Last year, he was based in Spain as part of the Spanish Epsilon Team and returned for a second season to win the Formula 2.0 Renault Euro-Cup Championships. He also finished third overall and won the final race of the Formula Renault 2.0 litre Italian Championship season. This outstanding achievement made Brendon the first New Zealander in 23 years to win a major European single seater title and led to his nomination and ultimate selection as a finalist for the Westpac Emerging Talent Award.
Brendon flew to England this week for 10 months of testing and training for the 2008 British Formula 3 International series. He is staying with Formula Test 1 driver Sebastien Buemi in Milton Keynes. A rookie in the series, Brendon hopes to come home the champion and one step closer to Formula 1.
“Each year it gets harder and harder. There are others out there chasing the same dream so I need to work that little bit harder than everyone else. I’ve realised, it’s just up to me now.”
Brendon is thrilled to be a finalist of the Westpac Emerging Talent Award and says, “It’s just nice even to be nominated” and says the cash prize would be invaluable during the 2008 season.
The Westpac Emerging Talent Award, which carries a $25,000 scholarship from Westpac, aims to identify and assist a young athlete in their quest to one day become an Olympic or World Champion and possibly a future winner of the supreme Halberg Award.