Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley to make F1 debut with Toro Rosso at US Grand Prix

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Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley of New Zealand will make his Formula One debut at the US Grand Prix in Austin next weekend for Toro Rosso as a replacement for the absent Pierre Gasly.

Frenchman Gasly joined Toro Rosso just two weeks ago from the Super Formula Championship to take the place of the struggling Daniil Kvyat, and as he trails the lead by a mere half-point, will contest the last race of the season in Japan on the same day as the Austin GP.

The last New Zealander to race in Formula One was Mike Thackwell 33 years ago.

The 27-year-old Hartley last tested with Toro Rosso in 2009 and was over the moon to get the belated chance to race his first F1 GP.

“What an amazing feeling, I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1,” said Hartley, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

“I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull and to Porsche,” he told the Toro Rosso site.

“I’m trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it.”
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said he was delighted for Hartley, describing him as part of the Red Bull family.

“Brendon is coming as the reigning 24h Le Mans winner and he’s also leading the current FIA LMP1 World Endurance Championship, which he won in 2015 as well,” Tost said.

“I’m convinced he’ll do a fantastic job for us.”

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.

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Sebastian Vettel keeps his cool and other talking points from the Japanese GP

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Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis hamilton romped to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to close in on a fourth world title after Sebastian Vettel retired with engine failure four laps in.

The Briton dominated from pole, steering his Mercedes to a crushing eighth win of the year, to stretch his Formula One championship lead over Vettel to 59 points with just 100 left to play for.

Here, we take a look at five talking points following Hamilton’s win in Suzuka.

How many Ferrari mechanics does it take to change a spark plug?

The sight of Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene looking glumly at the floor after Sebastian Vettel’s early retirement told a story in Suzuka.

A week after a fuming Ferrari president Sergio Marchione spoke of “organisational changes” for a string of costly mistakes in recent races, it would be little surprise if heads roll at Maranello.

The fiasco surrounding Vettel’s retirement after just four laps — caused by a humble spark plug — sounds like the punchline to a bad joke.

Get a room!

After sharing the podium with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in Suzuka, race winner Lewis Hamilton noted the banter between Red Bull pair and smiled: “I’ve never seen drivers such great friends. Do you guys share a room?”

Hamilton’s relationships with his own team-mates have largely been more fractious (honourable mentions: Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg). Verstappen, who had given Hamilton a late fright in the race, didn’t bat an eyelid. “Yeah we actually share a bed,” he replied.

Seb keeps his cool

Vettel would have been well within his rights to throw his toys out of the pram after Ferrari’s latest mechanical failure.

The German may have been hopping mad as his title hopes were frazzled by a faulty spark plug but he coolly held it together in his TV interviews.

“I need to protect (the team) — they’ve done an incredible job,” said Vettel.

Compare that to Hamilton’s histrionics last year when he suggested Mercedes could be conspiring against him after an engine fire in Malaysia.

Over and out for Palmer?

Jolyon Palmer admitted he may never return to Formula One after completing his final drive for Renault with a 12th-place finish in Japan.

The Briton, who makes way for Carlos Sainz, faces an uncertain future and may need to explore options outside of F1.

“On the plane back home it will probably sink in,” he said, despondently, although the sight of Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso into a wall on lap one will surely have made him feel a little better.

Naughty ‘Nando’

You just can’t keep Fernando Alonso away from controversy.

This year, he managed to avoid turning the airwaves blue over team at Suzuka, home of McLaren’s engine suppliers Honda, after a profane outburst 12 months ago.

But the Spaniard got into hot water for interfering with the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen in the closing stages of the race.

Alonso, who was fighting for 10th with Felipe Massa, ignored blue flags ordering him to get out of the way, earning him a couple of penalty points.

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Lewis Hamilton storms to Japanese GP win but who was our Driver of the Day?

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Lewis Hamilton romped to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to close in on a fourth world title after Sebastian Vettel retired with engine failure four laps in.

The Briton dominated from pole, steering his Mercedes to a crushing eighth win of the year, to stretch his Formula One championship lead over Vettel to 59 points with just 100 left to play for.

What did you think of the action in Suzuka?

Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Max Verstappen put in an majestic performance to finish second – a week after clinching victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The 20-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign, retiring from seven of the 16 races due to mechanical issues.

Starting from P5, the Dutchman caught Sebastian Vettel napping on the first lap and grabbed second place.

Although he pushed Hamilton for long spells of the race, the Mercedes driver had too much pace around the sweeping circuit at Suzuka.

With his team mate Daniel Ricciardo finishing third, it proved to be another successful weekend for Red Bull.

FASTEST LAP

Valtteri Bottas may have fallen short after starting from P2 on the grid, however his lap of of 1:33.144 on 50 proved to be the fastest of the day.

Kimi Raikonnen’s 1:33.175 on lap 50 was the second-fastest, with Daniel Ricciardo’s 1:33.694 on 52 third fastest as he pushed for second place.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

After an impressive weekend in practice, Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire on lap 5 due to a spark plug failure.

He was passed by Verstappen, Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas in the first lap and was called in to retire on lap five.

That follows an engine issue a week ago in Malaysia which saw him start from the back of the grid and recover to fourth, and a first-corner crash in Singapore that left both Ferraris out of the race.

Hamilton, who started on pole alongside Vettel, cruised to victory to open a 59-point lead over his German rival with just four races remaining.

ONE TO WATCH

Another fantastic performance from Pierre Gasly in just his second Grand Prix drive – finishing 13th.

The Toro Rosso driver looked solid in Suzuka as he held off the challenges of Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne to finish just outside the points.

The Frenchman finished 14th on his F1 race debut in Malaysia last week, and has subsequently relinquished the chance to win the Super Formula title, with the final round in Japan clashing with the US Grand Prix later this month.

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