Brendon Hartley's chances of racing in 2019 receive big boost after shock driver departure from F1 team

Brendon Hartley's rollercoaster rookie season in the Formula One appears to have been given a big boost thanks to a surprise move by another driver - off the course.

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has announced he is leaving the team this year to join Renault.

The surprising decision by the Australian could have a significantly positive impact on Hartley's chances of racing again in 2019 after the Kiwi's start to 2018 didn't quite go to plan due to non-finishes and uninspiring results.

As a result, rumours have floated around that Toro Rosso, Red Bull's junior development team who Hartley currently races for, were looking to replace the Kiwi driver.

However with Ricciardo's departure, Hartley's teammate Pierre Gasly has become the favourite to take over the Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen in 2019.

Should that happen, Hartley's chances of racing next season will increase exponentially due to his experience.

When the Formula One returns from its summer break in Belgian at the end of the month, Hartley will have nine more races to prove his worth to the team having only secured two points in the championship so far this year after 12 races.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley of New Zealand sits in his car during the first practice session at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Friday, March 23, 2018. The first race of the 2018 seasons is on Sunday. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Brendon Hartley. Source: Associated Press


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Kiwi V8 driver Scott McLaughlin gutted to lose Sydney Supercars

Another safety car calamity has put a dent in Scott McLaughlin's hopes of securing a maiden Supercars title.

Just as happened at Winton, the Ford flyer struggled from a restart and conceded a lead and lose a race that appeared his at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday night.

The safety car allowed Red Bull Holden rival Shane van Gisbergen to capitalise, entering all-out aggressive mode to fly past McLaughlin and claim a thrilling and historic race under lights.

McLaughlin, who started in pole, dropped further behind as van Gisbergen's teammate Jamie Whincup to overtook him with three laps to go and ended up in third.

With the 300km stanza at Eastern Creek worth double points, van Gisbergen's fifth win of the season cut the gap on McLaughlin in the standings to only 89 points.

With six rounds to go, van Gisbergen is hitting top-form to create pressure on his fellow New Zealander at the top and put doubt in McLaughlin's mind after the heartbreak of losing the championship in the final race last year.

McLaughlin said he was "very gutted" to be denied an eighth win of the season.

"I'm proud of the team and the strategy they played," McLaughlin said.

"I guess we probably just got caught out a bit there with the safety car.

"I tried my best and I wasn't gong to die trying in holding Shane and Jamie back but hopefully it was a good show for the fans."

"I wanted to win the first night race and I was trying my hardest."

The series reverts to a normal weekend of two races for the debut appearance at the Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia on August 24-26.

SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN / ALEXANDRE PREMAT (Shell Penske Ford). Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Round 11. Mount Panorma, Bathurst NSW 8 October 2017. Photo Clay Cross / photosport.nz
Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin in action for Ford at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Source: Photosport


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Scott McLaughlin shatters course record, grabs Supercars pole in Sydney

The cream has risen to the top in qualifying for the first Supercars night race in Australia for 21 years.

After some surprises were thrown up in the first practice yesterday, Ford star Scott McLaughlin smashed the track record at Sydney Motorsport Park with a scorching lap of 1:27.9494.

The championship leader's scintillating display saw him take his 11th pole position of the season and 44th of his career.

At just 25, McLaughlin sits in third behind only seven-time champion Jamie Whincup and the legendary Peter Brock on the all-time pole list.

"I'm stoked for everyone here, the car was awesome and it was a tough qualifying session," McLaughlin said.

"I'm still getting used to those (qualifying) three-stage ones but I think they're great for the fans."

He will be joined on the front-row by his Shell V-Power teammate Fabian Coulthard for the historic race under lights tonight.

It's the sport's first weekend racing under lights in Australia since 1997's Calder Park round, with 60 temporary light towers set-up around the Eastern Creek circuit.

The New Zealand ace's biggest threat to his push for a maiden title, Red Bull Holden's Shane van Gisbergen, will start from third and Nissan veteran Rick Kelly snatched fourth.

Holden star Whincup battled hard to get to fifth in a boost for his confidence.

Drivers are predicting the sole race of the round to be a "wildcard" considering the series hasn't raced under lights since heading to Abu Dhabi in 2011.

Adding into the mix, it's a 300km endurance test that is worth double the points of a regular race.

McLaughlin has a 131-point gap on van Gisbergen in the championship after the pair split the two races at Ipswich last month.

Coulthard and Whincup won the two Sydney races last year.

Scott McLaughlin of DJR Team Penske during the Coateshire Newcastle 500,  at the , Newcastle, New South Wales, November 24, 2017. Copyright photo: Clay Cross / www.photosport.nz
Scott McLaughlin Source: Photosport


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