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Formula One needs an American on the grid as soon as possible, and Colton Herta seems like he could be that American.
However, a lot of things need to happen before Herta takes a spot on the F1 grid in 2023.
In all likelihood, Herta will spend 2023 in the NTT IndyCar Series with Andretti Autosport and will probably be in the hunt for a championship.
Unless the right team comes a-calling in Formula 1. The driver market has been in disarray, and if enough cards land right, Herta could be the first American driver in F1 since 2015.
The last one was Herta’s Andretti teammate Alexander Rossi, who drove a handful of races for Marussia in 2014 and 2015.
The first rumblings of Herta going to Formula 1 were tied to a potential Andretti Autosport acquisition of Sauber (which races as Alfa Romeo). That deal fell through and the idea of adding Andretti as an 11th team on the grid has divided the paddock.
But that’s not the only path Herta has.
Red Bull Reportedly Interested In Herta
There have been a few reports that Helmut Mark — who oversees the Red Bull junior program —wants to bring Herta into the fold, but not for Red Bull. Instead, the thought is he would want Herta for Alpha Tauri, Red Bull’s sister team.
The current Alpha Tauri lineup consists of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda’s contract runs out at the end of the season while Gasly is signed for 2023. However, it’s thought that Alpine may try to work a deal for the Frenchman should the Oscar Pisastri debacle not work out in their favor.
According to The Race, that deal could be close to being finalized.
Alpha Tauri has had a rough 2022 season, but Tsunoda has been holding his own with Gasly and is just 7 points behind him through 14 races. It stands to reason that he could be re-signed for next year.
This means that in theory for Herta to get a seat at Alpha Tauri, Oscar Piastri needs to wind up at McLaren, Alpine would need to poach Pierre Gasly away from Alpha Tauri. then Red Bull would have to get him out of his IndyCar contract.
That’s a lot, but at least it can’t get any more convoluted can it? Right?
Super Licenses And McLaren Also Factor Into This Equation
Herta has an F1 development deal with McLaren. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that if McLaren’s Piastri deal falls through, they could put Herta in the car. The team already had Herta do a test for them in Portugal this summer and he impressed.
“I have to say the team was quite impressed at how Colton was dealing with all these challenges and his professional approach, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said.
McLaren has an embarrassment of riches on its hands. IndyCar drivers Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, and (possibly barring his contract situation) reigning champion Alex Palou are on their books. Each one would be capable of hopping in — or in Rossi’s case, back in — an F1 car.
But then there’s the whole matter of the Super License.
An FIA-issued Super License is a requirement for any driver in Formula 1. To get one a driver must accumulate a certain number of points and me.
The points are doled out based on championship finishes in other series (points are also given for F1 tests and practice appearances).
Drivers need 40 points over the last three seasons to obtain a super license. Colton Herta only has 32. The FIA has a COVID-related condition where drivers who have 30 points could be awarded a Super License upon review, per Racer.com.
Colton Herta is inarguably the American driver closest to getting a full-time seat in F1, but not the only one. Logan Sargeant races in Formula 2 and is a Williams Racing Driver Academy. He’s currently P3 in the Formula 2 standings.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle