Brendon Hartley to replace Jenson Button at SMP Racing for Sebring and Spa
SMP Racing has confirmed that former Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley will be driving the #11 LMP1 car alongside Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, replacing fellow F1 alumnus Jenson Button.
Button will be unavailable due to clashing Super GT commitments, but will be returning for the season finale at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The swap marks Hartley's return to sportscar racing for the first time since Porsche's LMP1 program ended in Bahrain in 2017, although he remains a Porsche factory driver as well as a simulator driver for the Ferrari Formula One operation.
"I’m very pleased to join SMP Racing for the next two WEC races at Sebring and Spa," said the New Zealander.
"The team have all the tools and a great driver roster so I think we have a big opportunity to fight for podiums. It marks my return to the WEC and I’m really looking forward to being back in the paddock amongst many familiar faces.”
Boris Rotenberg, SMP Racing founder: “We welcome Brendon as part of our line-up in the World Endurance Championship. He is a very strong driver, with extensive experience: he won the said World Endurance Championship twice, became the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
We are sure that our joint team will make a great contribution to the future victories. I think it will be interesting for Brendon to drive behind the wheel of our new Russian sport prototype BR1 and compete with rivals in the highest class LMP1.”
Hartley's entry into the #11 BR Engineering BR1-AER completes a reshuffling of the Russian outing's driver lineup, with Sergey Sirotkin, who also lost his F1 seat recently, replacing Matevos Isaakyan in the #13 car. Sirotkin commented: “I want to welcome Brendon Hartley, who joined our SMP Racing team. I have known Brendon for quite a long time, we get along well and he is an excellent driver who will certainly benefit our team.”