Hartley confirmed for F1 drive

Hartley confirmed for F1 drive

Hartley is set to become the first New Zealander on the Formula One grid in more than three decades.

Kenny Smith, who according to the New Zealand media source Newshub is Hartley's "mentor", thinks the driver will jump at the chance to race for Toro Rosso next weekend.

Hartley was crowned World Endurance Champion alongside former grand prix victor Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard in 2015 and leads this year's title race with three rounds remaining.

"This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1", he said in a statement.

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost pointed out that Hartley had longstanding Red Bull roots, and also hinted that the team - which tends to try to provide young talents with a springboard towards the Red Bull team - was eyeing a more experience pair of hands for Austin.

Russian Kvyat has since returned to Toro Rosso and will partner Hartley in Texas, after Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who has scored 48 of the Red Bull second-string outfit's 52 points so far this season, left for Renault last week.

Gasly will be racing in the Super Formula finale but is expected to return to action in Mexico; Hartley is believed to be a potential candidate for a 2018 seat with Porsche pulling out of the World Endurance Championship at the end of the year. With Carlos Sainz departing to Renault, the team looks set to hand a full-time role to Gasly, who impressed in Malaysia and Japan, but the team has doubts about Kvyat, who has endured a hard time since being demoted from Red Bull in 2016.

"The Austin track is one I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently".

"What an wonderful feeling", Hartley said in a team statement.

He can win a second World Endurance Championship with the factory Porsche team if results go his way this weekend in Japan.

Gasly was initially handed Daniil Kvyat's F1 vehicle for two races, Malaysia and Japan, however, Carlos Sainz's early move to Renault means he'll be staying with the team for the remainder of this season.

Hartley is no stranger to Toro Rosso, having tested for the team back in 2009. We are really happy to have him back in our team.

"With all the racing experience accumulated over the years, we are convinced that he will do a fantastic job for us", Tost said.

Mike Thackwell was the last driver from New Zealand to start an F1 race at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix.