McLaren has reportedly warned Toro Rosso to back off after the Red Bull junior team made a run at top prospect and Formula 2 championship leader Lando Norris.
Toro Rosso officials have made no real secret of their desire to replace the underperforming Brendon Hartley, with rumors swirling that a change could have happened in time for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
However, McLaren has ruled out their British teenager.
“We are not surprised that other teams approach our drivers,” said a McLaren spokesperson in a brief statement to the press association. “They clearly believe they are as talented as we do.”
Hartley has had a troubled start to his F1 career since debuting late last season. With weekly engine penalties, he started from the back nearly every weekend, meaning 2018 was a chance to really prove his worth to the Red Bull brass.
With just the one point compared to teammate Pierre Gasly’s 18 after six Grands Prix, the writing appears to be on the wall for Hartley, even if he is enjoying the ride.
“There’s a little bit more media on a week-to-week basis in Formula 1, so you feel like there’s a few more eyes on you,” Hartley told motorsport.com. “In some ways, it can feel like maybe more pressure in Formula 1 because you’re one driver rather than three.
“I’m enjoying it. I do have to remind myself why I’m doing it and why I’m enjoying it (because) there is a lot of pressure involved. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the pressures that are involved in Formula 1 and to lose sight in the absolute pleasure and why we are all here.
“I think that’s no different to any other sport when it becomes truly professional.”