Brendon Hartley used strong language to voice his frustrations at team mate Pierre Gasly with the Kiwi driver’s Formula One career hanging by a thread after failing to get any points out of the season’s penultimate race in Brazil.
Hartley finished the Brazil Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo in 11th place as Britain’s world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed another victory.
It was a brave and promising drive by Hartley at times after starting 16th on the grid. He was up to 10th and sniffing some much-needed points after 43 of 71 laps, but couldn’t take advantage of that and blamed Gasly for failing to obey team orders and let him past in the charge home.
With Carlos Sainz pressing him towards the end of a gripping race, Hartley, on fresh tyres, asked if he could pass a slowing Gasly and got the go-ahead from the team.
“I’m getting pretty close to Gasly, guys,” Hartley said on the team radio. “What’s going on, guys – I’m going to get caught by [Carlos] Sainz, if you don’t let me past Gasly.”
Told to overtake corner four, Hartley found no co-operation from Gasly.
“Is he gonna let me by? What the f… is going on? He is holding me up so much.”
Told to get closer to Gasly, Hartley replied: “Mate! I’m right up his f…ing ass. What is happening here, guys? I am not attacking him, because he is supposed to be letting me by, but then he doesn’t do it.”
Gasly eventually complied and Hartley apologised for his outbursts.
“Sorry about the language on the radio, guys. I wasn’t trying to race him, which Is why I was getting so upset.”
Hartley’s Toro Rosso bosses put immense pressure on Hartley over the final three races of the season, demanding points to boost his hopes of staying on for 2019.
But after failing to deliver at the Mexican Grand Prix a fortnight ago and dipping out again in Brazil, Hartley has just the season-ending Abhu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 25 to pull off what now looks like a necessary miracle.
After 20 races in 2018 Hartley has just four points from two 10th placings and one ninth. He lies 19th on the driver standings.
If there was a silver lining to his Brazil frustrations it came in finishing higher than Gasly.
Gasly, who is moving up to the full Red Bull team next year, has been the benchmark for Hartley. Gasly, who has earned 29 points over the year, started ninth on the grid in Brazil but failed to fire.
Toro Rosso won’t make a decision on Hartley until December and will have to weigh up their investment and his development against bringing in a new driver alongside Daniil Kvyat who has replaced Gasly. The latest speculation has linked Thai-British driver and F2 star Alex Albon to Hartley’s seat.
Hartley felt he produced one of his best F1 drives in Brazil and was frustrated not to get any reward for that.
“That was a really good race for me, it’s annoying you don’t get to score points as a reward, but there weren’t any retirements at the front to capitalise on,” Hartley later said in more diplomatic language.
“I started on the harder compound so it was a bit tricky for me during the first few laps, but still I had a strong start and made some good overtakes. To make our race work, I knew I would have to keep the tyres alive as long as possible on the first stint, I had great feedback from the pit wall and the strategy worked well.
“I felt this was one of the best performances of my F1 career but without the reward of points. The team will work hard over the next weeks to understand why we had such good race pace in Mexico, but struggled two weeks later here in Brazil.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s win in Brazil earned his Mercedes team the constructors’ title.
Hamilton, who had already sealed his fifth Formula One title, started from pole position and finished less than two seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium at Interlagos.
Hamilton’s 10th victory in the season was helped by Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who collided with Verstappen on the 44th lap when the Dutchman led.
Verstappen managed to stay in the race and get closer to Hamilton in the final laps, but it wasn’t enough for him to get his second consecutive victory.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel finished sixth.