'I never did give up on my childhood dream!' - Brendon Hartley confirmed to be first Kiwi to race in F1 since 1984 at US Grand Prix

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New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley has been confirmed to make his Formula 1 debut at next week's US Grand Prix, becoming the ninth Kiwi to race in the prestigious competition after agreeing to terms with Toro Rosso.

Brendon Hartley, 26, returns home after winning endurance championship alongside Porsche teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard.
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The 27-year-old was rumoured to be in talks with the Italian F1 team but complications around his availability were also being factored in until the team announced this morning they had signed Hartley for the race.

"What an amazing feeling," Hartley said in a team statement. "This opportunity came as somewhat of a surprise, but I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1."

"I have grown and learnt so much since the days when I was the Red Bull and Toro Rosso reserve driver, and the tough years I went through made me stronger and even more determined.

"I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull for making this a reality, and to Porsche for allowing me to do this alongside the World Endurance Championship. COTA is a track I really enjoy and one I have raced at recently. I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it."

Hartley has floated around the Red Bull teams for years as the official driver in 2009 and 2010 before being dropped to the junior programme.

However, with his success at this year's Le Mans 24 Hour race as well as a chance to secure a title this weekend in the World Endurance Championship in Fuji, Japan, Toro Rosso have opted to give the Kiwi a taste of the big lights. 

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost reportedly wants to use the next race as a chance to evaluate a new driver to add to next year's roster with current driver Pierre Gasly remaining a favourite to retain one of the team's cars, but the other currently still up in the air.

"Scuderia Toro Rosso is very pleased to announce that Brendon Hartley, who has been part of the Red Bull family for a long time in different classes, as well as the test and reserve driver for Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, will now be back racing for us in Austin," Tost said.

"Brendon is coming as the reigning 24 Hour Le Mans winner and he's also leading the current FIA LMP1 World Endurance Championship, which he won in 2015 as well. We are really happy to have him back in our team. With all the racing experience accumulated over the years, we are convinced that he will do a fantastic job for us."

New Zealand's last F1 driver was Mike Thackwell who raced in 1984.

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