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Herta: Sudden F1 interest was unexpected

Herta’s potential move to AlphaTauri has once again disturbed the driver market

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In the throes of an underwhelming season for Colton Herta, rumours of a move to F1 were surprising. 

Could Herta be the American driver F1 has been waiting for? (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Competing in his fourth year of IndyCar, the Andretti Autosport racer is placed eighth in the standings. He has only achieved one victory in 2022, yet is allegedly set to be the newest member of the Red Bull family.

How Herta can secure a seat

The American driver was most recently linked to McLaren, but no one was really sure if Herta would ever transform this connection into a seat. At the beginning of the year, he became a development driver for the papaya team. Jump forward to July, when he completed a private test in Portugal that “impressed from the outset”.

With the Oscar Piastri drama dominating the summer break, Herta seemed to fade into the background. However, now that the Aussie has been confirmed at McLaren, more seats have opened up. 

If Pierre Gasly is released from his contract and switches over to Alpine, his AlphaTauri seat becomes free. This is where Herta comes in. 

In a rumour that was shocking even to Herta himself, Red Bull expressed interest in recruiting him. Despite their impressive group of junior drivers in F2, the team seems to be prioritising the Indy racer. 

Speaking to Autosport, Herta said: “When I heard about the interest, it was a bit of a surprise because I didn’t think I was on anyone else’s radar.

“Everybody at McLaren seemed really pleased with how the test went, and how physically and mentally prepared I was. So I think that helped. But yes, I was a little bit surprised to hear about AlphaTauri interest when it initially came out.”

There are certainly positives to Herta making the move. He proved that he is an immensely talented competitor when he became the youngest winner of an IndyCar race back in 2019. Aside from that, he would be the first American F1 driver since Alexander Rossi in 2015 – the commercial opportunities would be vast.

Obstacles facing Herta

There is just one problem in this situation: Herta doesn’t have a superlicense. This is a requirement for all F1 drivers and involves reaching the benchmark of 40 points.

Currently, he is eight points short of getting a superlicense. Nevertheless, Red Bull are fighting to change this. 

Herta’s 2022 season has not been as smooth sailing as he had hoped (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The distribution of superlicense points varies from series to series. Theoretically, the road to F1 involves first competing in F2, so those championships award the required points. Winning the Formula 2 championship guarantees a superlicense, as does coming first in IndyCar. 

As Herta has achieved neither of these feats, he has had to add up various victories over the last few years. Whilst he has not amassed 40 points, the FIA are considering treating him as a special case and awarding the superlicense anyway. 

Some argue that this contradicts the current rules, with Fred Vasseur and Guenther Steiner becoming two of the main critics. 

Speaking about the controversy, Herta said:

“I think there’s a lot more to it and I truly do understand both sides of the argument. The FIA want to protect their ladder series and they want their drivers to go through their system. But I do believe IndyCar deserves a little more recognition besides being split between F3 and F2 for points.”

However, he does not appear too worried about the decision that will change his future, explaining that he was “never focused” on getting the necessary points. With an Andretti contract for next year already in place, the F1 2023 grid hinges on the FIA’s verdict.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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