Kiwi Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley has recharged his batteries and has his eyes focused squarely on a big second half to the season starting this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Le Mans winner got away from motor racing for a couple of weeks during the European winter break and spent some time hiking and mountain biking in Colorado.

But while Hartley got a bit of a breather on a personal level the Formula 1 silly season threw up some moves that may have eased the pressure on the Toro Rosso driver.

His teammate Pierre Gasly was this week confirmed to replace the Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull while fellow Red Bull contracted driver Carlos Sainz Jr has signed on with McLaren. That all means Hartley's Toro Rosso team need to find a new driver for next season and maybe any pressure that was on the Kiwi to retain his seat has now passed.


The 28-year-old suffered a challenging start to the season but has shown significant signs of improvement in the past few months but opted to make a clean break for a period leading into this weekend's race at the famous Spa track.

"During the break, I made a big effort not to think about racing as it's important to switch off and recharge, but in the last week, I've started thinking about the rest of the season and specifically Spa," Hartley said. "It's been a tough first half of the year, but I'm sure after the break, everyone at Toro Rosso is raring to go for the remaining races."

The famous race track is home to the 24 Hours of Spa race and has been on the Formula 1 calendar since the sport's inception and is renowned as one of the most challenging and picturesque circuits in the world.

While it will Hartley's first visit to the track as a Formula 1 driver he has some previous knowledge to call upon.

"I've won at Spa in Formula 3 and in WEC," he explained. "The venue is another crowd pleaser, very popular with the drivers and the fans. It's old-school and scenic as it undulates through the forest and it's a track that we very much enjoy. On top of that, the weather often comes into play and we've seen some very exciting races over the years because of the changing conditions."

With a point-scoring finish in Germany and a good drive in Hungary where here narrowly missed scoring points, Hartley feels he is carrying some momentum into the start of the second half.

"In Budapest, we showed that we had the pace and could do the job in mixed conditions, so that could mean we can have a very positive weekend in Spa," Hartley added. "We are all feeling optimistic after showing good pace in Hungary. It's going to be very nice getting back in the cockpit on Friday, especially as I will be taking on Spa in a Formula 1 car for the first time. It's one of the most iconic tracks on the calendar and I can't wait."