'It made me change my attitude' - Brendon Hartley says axing rumours make him a stronger F1 driver

Kiwi Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley says the constant speculation around his uncertain future in the prestigious motorsport circuit is helping him become a better driver.

Hartley has only managed two points in the first 12 races of a roller coaster 2018 season but is feeling confident ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.

The 28-year-old says the rumours about his spot at Toro Rosso were a "surprise" but he believes he has used them to his advantage.

"I actually feel much stronger than I did at the start of the year, much more sure of myself," he told Autosport.

"Having a lot of rumours and difficult questions to answer only three or four races into the season was a big surprise to me but it was a positive because it made me change my attitude, made me keep my focus in the right areas.

"I was also happy I could prove myself under a high-pressure situation, that I could perform and deliver.

"That was quite a defining moment for me. I was under so much pressure, it made me look at my approach, how I manage my time, where I put my mental energy."

Hartley said when he first heard of the speculation, he reminded himself to enjoy racing in the Formula 1 and "focus more on me and doing it for myself" without becoming selfish with his attitude.

"It's not that I was worried about what people were saying or talking about," he said. "I guess to a certain extent you're always aware.

"I feel much more focused on myself now. I feel a lot better because of it."

The Kiwi has nine races left this season to prove his worth.

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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