Brendon Hartley has said his Formula 1 future was thrown into serious doubt as early as the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018.
The New Zealander was racing in his first full Formula 1 campaign last year after first taking the wheel of the Toro Rosso car at the United States Grand Prix in 2017.
Hartley scored his first points in round four of the 2018 campaign but, just two races later, he has confirmed that a meeting put the “plan in motion” to axe him from Red Bull’s junior team.
“An hour [after the race], I was summoned to a meeting,” said Hartley via Autosport.
“And a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver. In the meeting there wasn’t much said.
“It was clear to me then that from as far back as Monaco there was a plan in motion to move me on.”
Rumours did circulate ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix that Hartley was indeed going to be axed.
“The worst part of that day was finding out there was some truth to the rumours,” Hartley recalled.
“I walked back to our apartment that night looking at the walls of the Monte Carlo circuit, knowing that, if I binned it, if I made contact with those walls this weekend, my F1 career might end in a few days.
“I knew every practice session carried more weight for me.
“Every lap time, every result was going to be under scrutiny and could be used against me to leverage my seat.”
Hartley had no fall-back options in Formula 1 and will not be involved at all in 2019, but he is retaining some hope that he can make some form of comeback.
“I will miss it,” he admitted.
“I’d be lying if I said otherwise.
“The F1 door is definitely not closed and the experience gained from a year at the top of the sport means I will arrive more prepared and stronger for whatever opportunities come next.”