Gatland names his squad for the trip to New Zealand on Wednesday and it is a case of four into three for the number two shirts.
Hartley is in a tussle with Jamie George, Wales’ Ken Owens and Ireland’s Rory Best for three hooking spots and Scotland’s Fraser Brown is also in the mix.
Hartley was originally picked by Gatland for the tour to Australia four years ago but missed that trip when he was suspended for abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Premiership final.
But if he misses out now it will down to form – he made way for George in the second half of all of England’s Six Nations fixtures – and he is ready to accept his fate whatever it is.
Dylan Hartley will accept the news if he doesn't make the British & Irish Lions squad
Warren Gatland will name his squad on Wednesday
“I think it is the ultimate privilege for any player from the British Isles,” said Hartley. “To go would be one hell of an experience I am sure, from what I have heard from previous tours, and for the guys that do make the tour it will be the trip of a lifetime.
“I am not counting my chickens and I am not getting my hopes up because in a week’s time it could all be taken away. If it happens it is a bonus. If it doesn’t happen I have other things I can focus on.
“For me there are still things I want to do in an England shirt. There is unfinished business there with the development of the team and where that is going. To be part of that is, in terms of ambition, is where I want to be. The Lions is just a bonus.”
Hartley will have one final crack at George when his Northampton play Saracens on Sunday in a possible shoot-out for the last Lions hooking spot.
Express Sport Lions XV Thu, March 23, 2017
Express Sport brings you our Lions XV that we think should take on New Zealand this summer
Play slideshow Getty Images 1 of 16
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Express Sport writers have picked their Lions XV to take on New Zealand
England coach Eddie Jones has always started with Hartley and had George come on as one of his fabled finishers but the captain thinks he would struggle if the tables were turned.
He said: “I have got a job to do in the team. I have had conversations with Eddie and I know what he expects and what he wants from me. I am sure Jamie has had conversations with the boss about what he wants to do. If it is my job coming off the bench then I will do that – I don’t know if I could make as good an impact as Jamie George but it is all for the team.”
Hartley might not know his summer plans but Harlequins flanker Jack Clifford does and they are grim. Clifford will undergo shoulder surgery shortly and be sidelined for 12 weeks ruling him out of England’s summer tour to Argentina.
Clifford, captain of England’s Junior World Cup winners in 2013, has had the problem most of the season.