Brendon Hartley says that joining the Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 team will feel different to when he first raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top class with Porsche in 2014.
The two-time WEC champion will make his first public appearance with Toyota during tomorrow’s Test Day after being confirmed in the team’s 2019-20 lineup last month.
Hartley moved to Formula 1 last year after Porsche’s LMP1 program folded, but returned to endurance racing when his F1 team Toro Rosso altered its lineup for 2019 season.
He made his sports car return during the ‘Super Sebring’ weekend in March, where he drove an SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER in the 1000-mile WEC race and a Cadillac DPi-V.R. in the 12-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round.
“I guess it is a bit different because I was involved with Porsche from the very beginning, from the early stages,” said Hartley, who will be the second driver after Andre Lotterer to race hybrid LMP1 cars for two manufacturers.
“I arrive here at Toyota where everything’s a lot more sorted and refined after a few years with the same car. I think the approach is different.
“I’m at a different point in my career. But every time you drive the car you try to use your experience and your abilities to the best that you can and make the most out of the situation.
“At the same time, I’m sure it’s a constant development here as well. Maybe not to the extent that it was four of five years ago when these new hybrid cars and rules were first put in place, but in any race team there’s always going to be room for improvement.
“And I’m sure it’s going to be the same here, that there’s always going to be evolutions during the season. My first job will be integrating and getting used to what’s already there”.
Hartley wouldn’t be drawn to compare the Toyota TS050 Hybrid with the Porsche 919 Hybrid that he raced for four years until he has driven he former on the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The Porsche-contracted Formula E development driver sampled the Toyota at Spa recently, but said that “some limitations” to the private test schedule prevented him from getting a proper feel.
“I’m going to reserve making too many comments until I’ve driven them around Le Mans,” he said.
“There are a lot of different systems in place. What’s clear is that it was nice to be back behind a four-wheel-drive hybrid with a lot of horsepower.
“It’s a nice feeling, and still one of the most exciting cars in the world to drive. [The Spa test] was more about getting used to the processes, the driving manual. The steering wheel is quite complicated.
“It was nice to get a first flavor, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow and opening it up around Le Mans.”
Formula 1 Made Hartley a “Stronger Driver”
Hartley believes that his brief spell in F1 has helped him to become a better all-round competitor, ahead of his full-time sports car return.
During his year with Toro Rosso, Hartley scored three top-ten finishes but his end-of-season points haul was impacted by a series of retirements.
“I think I’m mentally stronger,” he said.
“Formula 1 is a bit of a pressure cooker and you’re under the microscope. Pressure is being put on from all angles, and you end up hiding your approach. On top of that, 21 races in a year, there are so many little details that you learn from a season.
“Even if it didn’t work out as it could have done, there was a lot of bad luck along the way. I definitely felt that I came out a much stronger driver.”