Colton Herta

Herta’s F1 superlicence plight shows IndyCar is “very undervalued” by FIA


Posted on

| Written by

Colton Herta deserves to qualify for a Formula 1 superlicence based on his performances in IndyCar this year, his rival Patricio O’Ward told RaceFans.

The 21-year-old has been tipped to move into F1 in the near future as his Andretti team has been linked to a takeover of Sauber, which runs Alfa Romeo’s grand prix outfit.

However despite an IndyCar CV which includes six wins and seven pole positions, Herta remains eight points shy of the necessary 40 to qualify for an F1 superlicence. O’Ward believes this is because the FIA awards too few points for IndyCar compared to other series.

“For sure, I completely agree,” said O’Ward when asked whether IndyCar is under-valued by the FIA’s superlicence points system. “I think Colton is more than good enough to be able to compete with with the best in the world. And I believe there’s many drivers in IndyCar that are able to challenge the best in the world.”

Compared to IndyCar, drivers’ results in F2 and even many finishing positions in F3 are valued the same or more highly:

A total of 124 superlicence points are given to IndyCar drivers per season compared to 128 in F3 and 201 in F2. But O’Ward believes IndyCar is one of the hardest championships to win in motorsport and many of its drivers could compete in F1.

Patricio O'Ward, McLaren SP, Long Beach, IndyCar, 2021
Some superlicence holders aren’t up to F1 level, says O’Ward
“I understand Formula 1 is what people see as the highest tier, which it is in terms of technology and everything,” said O’Ward, who will test a McLaren F1 car at Yas Marina in December. “But IndyCar, based off talent, is not far off. And it’s probably the same amount of talent than in Formula 1.

“It’s full of very capable guys, and very, very competitive, especially how it’s getting to now. I really think it’s undervalued.

“If there is a championship that is arguably the hardest to win in the world, I’d probably go with IndyCar just because it’s so competitive and there’s no series that’s close to it. In Formula 1 you’ve got very many talented drivers, but you don’t have them in all equal cars so they can’t really compete for championships rather than maybe three or four cars that belong to two different teams.

“So I do believe that IndyCar is very underrated, very undervalued. If I were to make the rules, I’d say at least the top three in the championship deserve 40 points because it is a very, very hard championship to fight in.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Two-times IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden has previously said F1 “looks down” on the standard of competition in America, a view O’Ward echoed.

“It’s a little disappointing to see how people look down to it, and everything is always ‘Formula 1, Formula 1’,” he said. “Like why does everything have to be just one championship?

Colton Herta
Feature: F1 wants a US driver, but an IndyCar pipeline suits no one
“There’s so many different series in the world that are very interesting and great and I feel like IndyCar is one of them. I feel like it’s very undervalued for what it is and for how much time and effort and just in general how hard it is to to compete there and to be competitive there it’s really, really tough.”

O’Ward says it would be a shame if F1’s superlicence points system prevented Herta from being able to take advantage of an opportunity to race in the series.

“I really hope that doesn’t limit Colton’s chance to get into into Formula 1 because I think he’s more than capable of being competitive there,” he said.

“It’s not like he’s going to go into it and beat everyone – one, because he’s not going to be in a championship-winning car, but secondly it’s going to take time to understand the tyres and the different tracks and the different driving style. Everything will take time.

“But he’s more than capable of of being strong and I believe that he should get the chance if the opportunity is there for him. The limitation shouldn’t be the licence because sadly, there’s a lot more people that have a superlicence that are not up to the level of many guys that don’t have the superlicence and I feel like the system’s a bit odd.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Browse all IndyCar articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

34 comments on “Herta’s F1 superlicence plight shows IndyCar is “very undervalued” by FIA”

  1. It’s ridiculous! Why the huge discrepancy from 2nd place on? It’s been set up that way to favor European drivers and keep drivers from IndyCar out, even though that’s exactly what F1 needs to grow in the States.

    1. The FIA want to have drivers go through their accredited race series – F4/F3/F2. It’s not rocket science to figure this out :)

      1. This exactly. When the current scoresystem was announced it was set in stone basically. The FIA has always been kind of uncooperative towards Indycar as a whole (e.g. planning Monaco GP on same day as Indy500).

        1. I am actually shocked they have given IndyCar the points that they do to be honest.

        2. @nmgn FIA doesn’t form race calendars, but Monaco GP & Indy 500 on the same weekend has never really been an issue anyway, mainly because of the six-hour difference, which means no direct timing clash.

          1. @jerejj “..planning Monaco GP on same day as Indy500 ,as it prohibits F1 drivers from doing the race.

            Not a clash for us viewers, yes you are correct.

      2. Problem is Indycar has it’s feeder series too they should give points like F2.

        1. With some points for Indy Lights Herta would have a superlicense.
          He was 2nd and 3rd in Indy Lights in 2018 and 2017.
          As I precive many of the Indy Lights entrants not really making it at a higher level, so I rate that series lower than F3, probably then awarding a bit less superlicense points than F3 would be appropriate.

          Although as Wikipedia says Indy Lights and Indy 2000 Pro awards superlicense points, for example Indy Lights awards 15 12 10 7 5 3 2 1 (from1st to 8th). Then why Herta is ineligible for a superlicense with his 2018 2nd placement?

          Imo more or less this superlicense points did well, because the youngsters are most often more prepared, but of course they have more races to get prepared, the feeder series are more industrialised, what is good and bad at the same time imo. The downside is the cases like Herta’s, and the costs of F2, which is quite comparable to the costs of Indy. The upside that there are less real pay drivers (having a mega sponsor as a midfield F1 driver, or as a bigger talent is not paydrivership for me).

          Another downside is, that some of the pay drivers can still make their ways to F1, if someone can sponsor them to harvest 5-6th placements after getting seasoned at F2.

          The cure to this would be:
          – enlarge the time window (during which the points are gatherable) even more, imo permanently to 5-6 years
          Expiry of them is not so important, when it is about finding the best candidates. One is capable of being a shark at racing, or one is not really capable of it. Practically never winning races, never being on the podiums regularly but gathering the points with 5th and 6th placements as a seasoned driver at F2 not hints on an F1 quality driver.

          – make the superlicense points system more head heavy at most series, to award less for apparent mediocricity
          (with money they can still buy themselves in, but it would be more fair to big talents, a bit less banana peels for them)

          At Latifi it was almost the case (took a bit long to gather the superlicense points), but as we see, he turned out to be at least a safe, quite incidentless, and slowly improving driver, so he is quite functional at F1, better than his junior carreer trajectory hinted. Imo he is the exception.
          Mazepin had almost the same junior results, but unless his chassis really was worse then Schumacher’s (he got a new one not much before), he is likely less functional at F1. Stroll has pace, but apparently he still has problems with his spatial awareness (like turning into Verstappen at T1 Portimao at a free practice, after going down the main straight close to each other, are these cars so silent? even at a main straight?, and the last minor collosions with Vettel was quite bad as well).

        2. And of course as Indy is the second most prominent formula series, I obvoiusly rate it higher than a feeder series (series basically only with young, and -compared to LMP, Indy and the better touring car series- relatively inexperienced drivers), and the superlicense points system should reflect it, because sporting-wise that would be fair. Imo people should show that the world is not or will not always be about business, by not buying, and not getting up onto most of the hypetrains. Tbh I would not buy many things, not even as a billionaire, but I would just say: it is expensive :)

  2. The Super Licence system is inherently flawed. Max got to F1 with 1 season in F3 then the FIA panicked.

    The FIA are desperate for sporting credibility, and thus want to create this ladder/pyramid system. It’s all nonsense of course because in effect it just puts inflationary pressure on the costs to run with good teams (who basically give access to said points) in the big classes and destroys the hopes of talented drivers who can only afford one or two years in cars. The whole system is incredibly skewed and weird.

    With that, the FIA aren’t in the business of boosting the credibility of series like IndyCar. They want drivers to go

    OK Karting
    F4 national

    IN effect complete control over the flow of drivers and maintaining the team structure, which is very profitable for those who get to supply cars in these series.

    I find it odd that people try to argue the super licence system should allow for indycar drivers… when the whole thing should be scrapped. It’s the biggest barrier to drivers getting opportunities in the first place. It’s prices so many out of the market. I’ve been writing about this for a while now –

  3. Aside from “belief”, where is the evidence that an Indycar driver could compete in F1? We’ve had a couple of top Indycar talents come across to F1 in the past and they were never on the pace. Yet several F1 has-beens and never-made-its have gone across the pond and won in the Indycar series.

    Superlicence points seem completely justified to me.

    Frankly I’m disappointed that Haas never took the opportunity to bring some USA talent across and stuck with a couple of F1 rejects for too long.

    1. The Super Licence points don’t really measure ability though. They measure the sustainability of your budget to spend year on year collecting points.

      Max Verstappen, the leader in the F1 WDC, did one year of cars and I think would have had 24 points equilivent the year he entered F1. Less than Herta currently has. Kimi had a similar lack of equilivent points when he entered.

      Super licences don’t result in upping the standards in my opinion, it’s just kept drivers spending money in the junior formula longer and promoting F2 (GP2) which drivers were ‘skipping’ because it’s largely a waste of time.

    2. “Aside from “belief”, where is the evidence that an Indycar driver could compete in F1? We’ve had a couple of top Indycar talents come across to F1 in the past and they were never on the pace. Yet several F1 has-beens and never-made-its have gone across the pond and won in the Indycar series.”

      Well for starters IndyCar is almost a spec series so driver ability means more there in a series with more car developement like F1.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        21st October 2021, 22:09

        @yaru To name a few successful IndyCar to F1 converts:
        – Mario Andretti (technically he started in stock car racing… a master of all motorsports)
        – Danny Sullivan (wasn’t super successful but wasn’t a bum driver in F1 neither, he had Keke Rosberg as a teammate i believe)
        – Jacques Villeneuve
        – Juan Pablo Montoya

        Granted, there are not many that go from IndyCar to F1. However, that is more a result of Europeans attitude toward IndyCar, tbh. I think the majority of the grid could compete in F1 if given the chance (granted half of the grid are ex-F1 or F2 drivers that couldn’t find seats). I love both series as both are top notch in my opinion. It is just two different flavors of motor racing and I grew up watching IndyCar/CART. I didn’t’ realize F1 existed until Mansell’s return to F1 in 1994 after winning the 1993 CART championship. So I started watching F1 from 1994 to today. What I am saying is that IndyCar drivers are no slouches and could cut it in F1 if given a fair shake.

    3. Yet several F1 has-beens and never-made-its have gone across the pond and won in the Indycar series.

      Are you talking about the same F1 where jokes of the paddock and average drivers like Trulli, Kovalainen, Maldonado, Gasly or Ocon have won races?

      1. They won in IndyCar because, unlike F1, the IndyCars are the same.

    4. This system is made to prevent young drivers to join F1 (they were spooked by Max) forcing them to do feeder series first.
      But i find Indycars drivers good enough to join F1 if they do well in that serie. I compare them with F2 that gives you some idea of their abilities.

    5. I certainly understand what you’re saying, David, but it doesn’t fully stack-up. To say that IndyCar equates to less than even F2, as the super license points suggest, is pretty falsafiable.

      Let’s look at drivers moving from F1 to IndyCar:
      1. Most of the “has-beens” that moved from F1 into leading IndyCar success happened in the 80’s and early 90’s: Mansell, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Dan Gurney. They were stars in F1 and become stars in IndyCar. Zanardi left F1 early on in his career and became a star in IndyCar, so I’l give you 1 there.

      2. More recent F1 drivers to move to IndyCar have proven to be mid-fielders (at best) in both: Chilton was widely panned in F1 and has struggled similarly in IndyCar. Takuma Sato, Marcus Ericsonn, and Alexander Rossi I believe were viewed as mid-field contenders in F1and both have really only had success at the Indy500. Rossi hasn’t delivered on the hope and promise he once had. Grosjean is the only one who ever drove for a ‘leading team’ in Lotus, where he showed capability, but that was at a level similar to what he has showed in IndyCar.

      Add in the Eddie Cheevers, Roberto Morenos, and Christiana DaMattas who tested or did part time in F1 and #1 and #2 show that what one achieves in F1 is likely to be similar in Indycar.

      Now, lets look at IndyCar drivers moving to F1
      3. IndyCar saw a few drivers make the move in the lat 90’s and early 00’s: Jacques Villenueve being a significant success, going from winning Indy500 and CART championship to winning the World Drivers Championship in f1. You also have Juan Montoya who pushed and challenged while at McLaren. I would hardly say they were “off the pace” in F1. Alex Zanardi and Michael Andretti would be two exceptions. In interviews Zanardi has said he realized he didn’t have the equipment to succeed and left back for IndyCar. Andretti was “off the pace” sure, but again that was early 90’s and not representative of today. Still, I’ll give you another 1 there.

      That is 2 out of 16 (12.5%) who performed noticeably better in IndyCar than F1. Only 1 of those 2 (Michael) had a shot in a leading team at the time. Interestingly he was also trying to live in the US and only fly in for the races at the time. That’s no way to mount a real effort. Either way, I’ll give a slight edge to F1. But to say that Indycar is equivelant to F3, as the super license points suggests, is being dismissive of facts.

      If you look at what those who have driven in both since the 90’s say, they say that the transition to F1 is harder because there is more sensitivity and nuance to understanding how each individual car performs and that you have to go all-in with the team to make the most of it. Whereas IndyCar has less nuance between the cars so if you can learn to drive any IndyCar you can probably maximize your performance in other team’s cars as well. That is a result of it being essentially a spec series. If you want to equate Indy to F2 because it is a spec series then lets have that discussion, but to rate it below F2 is silly. One is full of grown men at the peak of their career, and the other is completely young talent looking to develop their skills and be discovered.

  4. I don’t watch Indy Car but some of the same races are used in IMSA which I follow. I think US courses (not including ovals) are often more challenging than many F1 tracks, largely because of a lack of run off and lots of grass. I think that should count for something.

    1. some racing fan
      21st October 2021, 22:37

      I agree completely. Although the US and Canadian tracks (with the exception of Indianapolis, COTA, Montreal and maybe Laguna Seca) don’t have the safety or the pit facilities of F1-spec tracks in Europe, they are certainly more challenging to drive. In addition to Laguna Seca, tracks like Road America, Watkins Glen, VIR, Mosport, Mont-Tremblant, Sebring, Daytona, Road Atlanta, Barber, Sonoma and others are definitely more challenging to drive than all but 4 or 5 F1 tracks. F1 needs more challenging tracks and more average speed variation. There are still tracks in Europe and elsewhere that are not F1 spec that are still great to drive (Nordschleife, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Le Mans, Bathurst, Buenos Aires, etc, etc.), F1 doesn’t race at them.

  5. When drivers have switched series, they don’t completely dominate the other – F1, IndyCar, WRC…
    On the other hand its is a series of variables, Mansell one immediately which showed for one moment that F1 is far superior, then it turned out that the car was a bigger factor in Indy too. Jeff Gordon(NASCAR) set some very good times in his very first F1 drive – and he was not even testing for a seat, just having fun.

    Me thinks some of the top WRC talent can shine in their first year in F1, let’s test/try Rovanpera and Tanak;

    1. Mansell didn’t sho that F1 was superior. That’s a logical fallacy that people make. He won the IndyCar championship by a smaller margin than the F1 crown.
      Using the same logic, if Mansell had won the 2 titles in a reversed order: IndyCar in 1992 and F1 in 1993, then one would need to say that he showed IndyCar being superior to F1. So if just the order of those wins leads you to two completely opposite conclusions you see how flawed the logic is.

    2. @rufernan I doubt rally drivers could quickly shine in F1 or circuit racing in general, given rally driving is entirely different. Like day-night difference. Also, the other way round, e.g., Kimi in 2010-11.
      Switching between different single-seater/formula cars or single-seater & GT, WEC, DTM, etc., is smoother.

  6. The F2 favouritism in superlicence points is criminal. There are other racing series with strong fields, to narrow to potential F1 field is silly.

    1. Not if you want to cement the F1 ladder system in pursuit of sporting credibility. How can the FIA justify having F4, F3 and F2 in its current form if they don’t give it ‘premier’ status to some extent. I am surprised they didn’t go further with it

  7. The F2 (& F3) favoritism is understandable, given the series is closer to F1 than IndyCar in several ways, such as sharing circuits & weekends, FIA-governed, etc., albeit not the overall 2nd-fastest category.

  8. Having to win Indycar, or be top 3 and shine in another major feeder series doesn’t seem too unreasonable for me and I still think F1 should be a race of champions.

  9. I’m fairly certain that they’ll make an exception as they seem to do a lot of the time. I think this system just allows them to pick and choose who they want.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      21st October 2021, 18:58

      I agree and the FIA may require him to prove himself in a test on old cars (that would be what I would expect). I think he’ll be just fine. It maybe likely that he competes in Indycar and takes a 3rd driver roll (tests and practices) next year. Then go into F1 full time the following year. That way he can do some practice days and test days.

    2. @ppzzus @flyingferrarim Exceptions require meeting a certain criterion, i.e., a heavily disrupted program by COVID as in Juri Vips’ case, etc. Unapplicable for literally anything.

      1. If they want him they’ll just make up whatever bs excuse they feel like

  10. I think they like it that way because it inflates the importance of F2 over other more impressive series such as Super Formula and Indycar. FIA mafia.

  11. One issue is the homogeneity of the cars in F1 feeder series, which help develop a particular driving style. F1 drivers are all super-smooth, millimetreticly precise alchemists of tyre wear. I think that learning curve starts in F3 and has routes in the tyre philosophy. IndyCar is more brutal and it’s probably easier going west over the Atlantic than east, not because indy stars can’t drive that way, but because everyone else has a massive head start and they’ll be unfairly judged if they suck to begin with.

    1. Max did KZ then Euro F3 (not on Pirellis and proper F3 too) for one year then F1. All this talk about what they learn in particular various feeder series is somewhat exaggerated in my view.

Comments are closed.