Kiwi Brendon Hartley tipped for F1 debut for Toro Rosso at US Grand Prix
Brendon Hartley could be poised to become the first New Zealand Formula 1 driver for more than three decades.
Autosport magazine has reported that Hartley, 27, is the favourite to replace Pierre Gasly for the race at the Circuit of Americas track and could even take over as team driver in 2018.
Mike Thackwell was the last Kiwi to be involved in Formula 1, but that was way back in 1984. That could change within the next fortnight with Hartley, a previous winner of Le Mans 24, shaping as the strongest contender for the vacant Toro Rosso seat at next week's US Grand Prix.
Gasly has opted to skip the race in Austin to concentrate on winning the Asian Super Formula championship at the series finale on the same weekend.
Hartley, the Red Bull official reserve driver in 2009 and 2010, completed one test for the team in 2008 and two for Toro Rosso in 2009 before being dropped from the team's junior programme.
He also took part in a young driver test at Magny-Cours for Mercedes in 2012, as well as spending time in the team's simulator.
With enough super licence points to race in Formula 1 Hartley is currently contracted to Porsche and competing in the World Endurance Championship, where he could win the title this weekend at Fuji.
It is also believed he is close to a deal to race for Chip Ganassi in IndyCar next year, meaning there are contractual issues to be ironed out before his Austin appearance can be confirmed.
With that in mind, Toro Rosso and Red Bull have lined up Buemi, who raced for Red Bull's junior team between 2009 and 2011, to step in if a deal for Hartley cannot be agreed.