'Kudos to Red Bull for taking risk' - Hartley
14 December 2017 – Brendon Hartley says that he has "massive respect" for Red Bull chiefs after they handed him his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso during the 2017 season.
Hartley was initially part of Red Bull's junior programme 2007-2010 and sampled Formula 1 machinery, most recently with Mercedes in 2012, before switching to endurance racing.
He went on to claim the World Endurance Championship title in 2015, and again in 2017, having taken overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year.
Over the second half of the season, Hartley was also given a Formula 1 shot, having made contact with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, amid his WEC success.
Hartley's opportunity came at this year's United States Grand Prix, when Carlos Sainz Jr. made an early switch to Renault, and Pierre Gasly focused on his Super Formula campaign.
He continued in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi and, after an array of technical issues hindered his efforts, will keep his place for 2018, alongside Gasly.
"I didn't think this would ever happen," said Hartley, when asked if he could have dreamed of such a chance, after Porsche announced its LMP1 exit.
"I've said a few times that I did make the call to Helmut, more or less before Hungarian Grand Prix, at the time I didn't believe I was going to be making my Formula 1 debut this year or even next year.
"I knew there was maybe some opportunity to do a test or maybe a simulator drive, maybe a chance to prove myself again, but never did I believe they would put me straight into a Grand Prix without testing.
"So it's massive kudos and respect to Helmut and everyone else involved to take that risk and put the trust in me that I could do the job.
"I guess they did a lot of analysis from LMP1 and it also shows the level is high there and has respect.
"The dream was always there for me, it always has been, but I didn't… realistically think I was going to be sitting here talking to all of you guys [Formula 1 media]."
Hartley added that, after his phone call with Marko, he did not pester Red Bull for clarifications over what his second spell with the company could lead to.
"Actually, the whole way through the process I made a decision to just not ask so many questions," he said.
"Even when I was asked to go to the simulator before Austin, I think it was two weeks before, I didn't ask any questions, I just said, 'Sure, fine'.
"I thought it was maybe a testing role, at that time I didn't know it was to be for a race seat, and also didn't ask.
"I took a similar approach [for 2018], because asking the question wasn't going to help, it was better just to focus on the job and working with the team.
"It's the approach I took and I think it paid off."