AUSTIN -- Formula One debutant Brendon Hartley says a bold remark to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko helped plant a seed which eventually led to his opportunity with Toro Rosso at this weekend's U.S. Grand Prix.
Hartley has not driven an open-wheel car since 2012 but has been drafted in to replace Pierre Gasly as the Frenchman attempts to win the Super Formula title in Japan. Since being dropped by Red Bull's driver programme Hartley has enjoyed success in World Endurance Championship, winning the title in 2015 and then securing a maiden Le Mans 24 Hours victory this season.
By his own admission, the Kiwi failed to meet the high expectation levels during his years as a Red Bull junior. This year, after Porche's decision to withdraw from WEC was confirmed, he saw an opportunity to go and make up for lost time.
"When it was announced Porsche would stop endurance racing in LMP1 for next year, I called Helmut Marko and I said you know what, 'I'm a different driver, I've learnt a lot and if there's ever an opportunity I'm ready'.
"He didn't say much. He just said he got the message and three months later I got the call and this happened very quickly."
Hartley has spent a day in the simulator but was still in the process of completing his seat-fitting when he spoke to the media for his individual press session on Thursday afternoon -- in fact, his time was cut short so he could complete it. His preparation has been limited by the fact he has been racing in different series' for the past two weekends.
Instead, Hartley says he's been leaning on advice of friends in motorsport to help prepare him for his first Friday practice sessions.
"All the friends I have in the sport I've been asking for a bit of advice, I saw Mark [Webber] this morning for breakfast and I saw Daniel [Ricciardo] who's one of my best buddies, I saw him a few nights ago for all the best advice I could manage to get out of him regarding tyres. I mean, some of it's gonna come down to driving FP1, seeing how I go and then asking some of those questions which aren't really relevant until I've really experienced the car."
Like many Red Bull juniors since, Hartley's success at an early age saw him enjoy a rapid ascension through the team's ranks -- culminating in his role as test and reserve driver for Toro Rosso in 2009 and then both Toro Rosso and Red Bull in 2010, though that ended prematurely when he was dropped from the programme.
Hartley believes it was a case of too much, too soon.
"I guess I wasn't ready. I had some success in the early days and won the Formula Renault, I became the reserve driver at my first F1 test at 18 years old and I guess I didn't really deal with the pressure,
"I stopped enjoying it, I wasn't happy. I was pretty young, away from home and I guess when the Formula One dream stopped in 2010 I picked myself up, I started Endurance racing and I learnt a lot from that experience with being in the LMP1 programme with a high profile category where there is a lot of pressure, probably not that dissimilar to Formula One in some ways, in terms of prospects and also working with teammates in some respects has been great and so I'm a lot stronger than I was back then, is what it is.
"I like to think I'm ready now. I'm not very prepared, I haven't driven the car and I haven't driven a single seater since 2012 but I like to think Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well."