LONDON (Reuters) - New Zealander Brendon Hartley and French driver Pierre Gasly will race for Toro Rosso next season, the Red Bull-owned Formula One team said on Thursday.
Hartley, a Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar winner with Porsche and double world endurance champion, was drafted in to the team last month and will be starting his first full F1 season in 2018.
So too will Gasly, who made his debut in Malaysia at the beginning of October.
“It’s very satisfying to have converted an opportunity that came as a surprise into a 2018 F1 drive, I couldn’t be happier,” said Hartley, who got his break when Toro Rosso were casting around for a U.S. Grand Prix stand-in.
“I’d like to thank Red Bull and Toro Rosso for believing in me and giving me this second chance -- dreams can come true,” added the 28-year-old, who tested with the team as a teenager.
Carlos Sainz had left for Renault and Gasly, the Spaniard’s replacement, had other commitments in Japan where he was competing for the Super Formula title.
That left Toro Rosso needing to find another driver, having already recalled Russian Daniil Kvyat. Hartley impressed and was confirmed alongside Gasly to the end of the season, with Kvyat leaving.
Team principal Franz Tost said both rookies had shown they had what it takes.
“We have been truly impressed by their steep learning curves. As we know, F1 is something that not all drivers can adapt to this fast,” said the Austrian.
“Therefore, we’re looking forward to having a full year with them; One where we can hopefully provide them with a good package which, combined with driver consistency, can surely put them in the best possible situation to deliver.”
Toro Rosso are switching from Renault to Honda engines next season and are fighting the French manufacturer and U.S.-owned Haas team for sixth place in the constructors’ championship.
Renault are just four points behind Toro Rosso and two clear of Haas with the difference between sixth and eighth places measured in millions of dollars when it comes to revenue payments.
Neither Hartley nor Gasly has scored a point so far, with the former set to start his fourth race of the season in Abu Dhabi next week and the Frenchman his fifth.
The team’s driver confirmation leaves only Williams and Sauber with uncertain lineups.
Williams need to replace retiring Brazilian Felipe Massa while Sauber are expected to bring in at least one Ferrari-backed driver with Monaco’s Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc seemingly sure of a seat.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Toby Davis