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Hartley hoping to see 'a few Kiwi flags' flying in Melbourne

©ToroRosso

Melbourne won't be a home race for Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley, but it will be close enough for him to hope for some good Kiwi support.

The 28-year-old embarks on his first full season of Grand Prix racing this year following his surprise recruitment by Toro Rosso in the latter part of last season.

The opportunity has come late in Hartley's career compared to his rookie rivals, but he's determined to make the most of the break offered to him by Red Bull and the Faenza-based outfit

"Thinking about Australia it’s probably the race I’m looking forward to the most," he says.

"It’s the first race of the season and it’s been a few months since all of us got to take the race start, so there’s a lot of adrenaline and excitement.

"Also, it will almost feel like a home race for me. There’s clearly a big difference between Australia and New Zealand, anytime you talk to an Aussie or a Kiwi you learn that pretty quickly! "

Indeed, with the help of some often animated banter and sledging, mainly over sport, a fierce rivalry opposes the two countries.

But Hartley's countrymen will be going the extra thousand miles next weekend to support their man, who, last October, became the first Kiwi to race in F1 since Mike Thackwell in 1984.

"When I was back home in New Zealand, every second or third person I spoke to said they were coming to Australia," rejoiced Hartley;

"So I’m hoping to see a few Kiwi flags around which will be quite a special moment for me!

"Some of my very good friends are Aussies - we always have this rivalry, especially in sport - but I find that when we’re away from Australia or New Zealand and come across each other in Europe we always have a lot in common and get along very well

"So the rivalry isn’t as bad as people might think."

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