Formula 1: FIA burst Red Bull’s dream of Colton Herta
Disappointment for Red Bull and the American fans of Formula 1: The FIA puts a stop to a change from IndyCar super talent Colton Herta to AlphaTauri.
Because the 22-year-old is missing eight points for the super license, he is not allowed to compete in the premier class in 2023. The World Automobile Association had recently demonstrated a clear edge in the cause and apparently can no longer be softened.
Red Bull has no choice but to put the plans with the US pilot on hold for the time being. “We’re doing without Herta,” explains motorsport consultant Helmut Marko to AUTO BILD MOTORSPORT on Friday.
When the FIA said no to an exemption for Herta, the racing team bit its teeth until the end. Marko has no understanding for this and is disappointed with the decision: “It’s a shame that the FIA doesn’t recognize the value of an American driver in Formula 1,” says the Austrian.
However, since the team quickly needs planning security with a view to the driver market for 2023, Red Bull now has no other choice: “And the pressure on him is also too great,” explains Marko with a view to Herta. The American also has an obligation to his Andretti team in the IndyCar series, otherwise he would run the risk of being without a cockpit for next year if the decision was delayed for a long time.
A Herta test originally planned for next week at the Hungaroring, with which Red Bull wanted to convince those responsible for F1 again, has therefore now been canceled.
Accordingly, an agreement on the Gasly issue is now a long way off. “Negotiations with Alpine are difficult,” explains Marko in relation to the Frenchman who is willing to emigrate. If there is no longer an adequate replacement candidate, Gasly will probably go into his last year of contract with the team from Faenza and Alpine will have to look elsewhere.
Andretti ennobles “successor” Herta
With the veto against Herta, Formula 1 is missing a great opportunity to build on the ongoing F1 boom in the USA: thanks to the Netflix hit “Drive to Survive”, the premier class in the States is reaching a new audience, in 2023 there will already be three US races: Las Vegas will be added to Austin and Miami, with other venues to follow. What is missing, however, is a local driver, preferably a successful one.
Andretti, who has known Herta since he was three years old, believes: “You can’t teach anyone to be fast. You either have it in you or you don’t. There are some good drivers, some great ones too – and then there are the racers. Those are the ones that really have it. And he’s a racer.”
Like Verstappen: Herta is the youngest winner at 18
“When we were very close to the deal with Sauber, Colton spent a week at the factory in Hinwil. On the third day in the simulator he was already faster than regular drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen (2007 World Champion; ed.)”, reveals Mario Andretti. The US legend believes: “He has pure speed. Even as a rookie he was a sensation, defying all odds without making a single mistake: you need balls for that.”
In fact, Herta hits IndyCar like a bomb: At only the third start in the series, he wins his first race in Austin in 2019 and thus becomes the youngest winner in IndyCar history, at the age of just 18 years, 11 months and 22 days. The comparisons to Max Verstappen, who also achieved this feat at the age of eighteen in his first Formula 1 victory in Barcelona in 2016, are obvious.
Lando Norris calls Herta “Hooligan”
The fans in Daytona will get a taste of Herta’s talent again this year: Eleven minutes before the end of the 24-hour marathon, the youngster is second in his LMP2 category and should just get the car to the finish line safely, while his Dragonspeed mechanics and teammates worried in the pits. And what does Herta do? He attacks the leader with a lot of risk, pushes past with a tough maneuver and gets the win.
“I’ve also always had that burning passion and love for the sport that I see in Colton. And when you’re so motivated, then you don’t take any prisoners,” says old master Andretti a little later to AUTO BILD MOTORSPORT and calls it an “all-or-nothing approach”. Lando Norris, of all people, gave him the nickname “Hooligan Herta” at an early age for his uncompromising driving style. The McLaren star and Herta were teammates at Carlin in British Formula 4 in 2015 and are still good friends today.
What they both have in common is, among other things, a somewhat quirky sense of humor: Herta has sometimes posed on social media with her friend Riley dressed up as Borat. Even off the slopes, the Californian is not a typical racing driver, but more of a rock star type. In his free time, he plays drums in the band “The Zibs”, which he founded with two high school friends – the long hair is a fitting addition.
In terms of sport, street courses are very popular with Herta, but the man from Santa Clarita has his weaknesses in the oval: he gets all his podium finishes on circuits. All or nothing, that is also reflected in Herta’s statistics: seven of his eleven podium finishes so far are victories. Before he finishes second, the 22-year-old prefers to risk everything – like at the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville 2021:
The Andretti driver dominated the whole weekend, was at times a second quicker than the rest of the field and was in the lead when an unfortunate pit stop under yellow threw him far back. Herta closes the deficit again in no time at all, overtakes one car after the other and five laps before the end the leader is already in the gearbox again – then he overdoes it and crashes his car into the wall: learning the hard way.
Super license prevents Herta from debut in F1
Verstappen also deformed one or the other chassis at the beginning of his career and sometimes had to take harsh criticism for his youthful high spirits. But when the Dutchman finally brings consistency to his performances, his meteoric rise can hardly be stopped. Herta now wants to follow this path and shows similar approaches: Just a few months after the damper from Nashville, he races to victory in the prestigious classic in Long Beach – from 14th place on the grid, like Verstappen last time in Spa.
“Otherwise, Max Verstappen would not have received a super license at the time, and neither would Kimi Raikkonen a few years earlier. If you look back, there are some guys who are now world champions and wouldn’t have qualified under the rules of the game today,” laughs McLaren boss Zak Brown about the bizarre situation.