Colton Herta, Laguna Seca, IndyCar, 2021

Herta’s IndyCar success should qualify him for F1 drive – Alonso

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso thinks Colton Herta would be “a good fit” for Formula 1 if the IndyCar race-winner wants to compete in the series.

Herta has been tipped to become America’s first grand prix driver for six years via his Andretti IndyCar squad, which is considering a move to buy Sauber, which runs the Alfa Romeo-branded F1 team.

Alonso, who raced against Herta at the Indianapolis 500 last year described him as “a very good driver, very talented, very young.

“He’s the youngest IndyCar race winner and I think he has a very good organisation with Andretti. He would be a good fit for Formula 1, for sure.”

Despite taking six IndyCar victories, two top-five finishes in the championship and the runner-up position in the 2018 Indy Lights series, Herta is not eligible for a Formula 1 superlicence under FIA regulations. He has scored 32 out of a required 40 superlicence points.

Colton Herta, Laguna Seca, IndyCar, 2021
Report: Herta’s F1 superlicence plight shows IndyCar is “very undervalued” by FIA – O’Ward
Drivers who have scored at least 30 can only qualify if they are “judged at the sole determination of the FIA as unable to qualify” under the normal criteria “due to circumstances outside their control or reasons of force majeure.” The FIA has already relaxed the licence threshold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, extending the eligibility period for qualifying championship results from three years to four.

IndyCar driver Patricio O’Ward told RaceFans this week IndyCar is “very under-valued” compared to series such as Formula 2 and even Formula 3, which award more points to drivers in total.

Alonso said any question of whether more superlicence points should be awarded for IndyCar performances was “more a question for the FIA or whoever it is dealing with the licencing.”

However, he added “I think there are categories like IndyCar that has the the level high enough that you should get the necessary points like you do in other categories in Europe.”

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However Herta’s hopes should not necessarily be pinned on F1, said Alonso. “Each of us has a different plan in his career and I don’t know what Colton has in his head at the moment because I’m sure that he’s happy with IndyCar. Same as Alex Palou, that won the championship this year, he’s really committed to to the US racing and enjoys racing here in the States.

Colton Herta
Feature: F1 wants a US driver, but an IndyCar pipeline suits no one
“Sometimes there is not only one target, Formula 1. Motorsport is much more than Formula 1. Even here inside this bubble, some people feel that this is the the top, top, top. Which, it is probably the top, but there are other super categories.”

Alonso, who raced in IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship and the Dakar Rally before returning to F1 this year believes drivers in other series deserve more respect for their abilities.

“I do respect a lot all the drivers in every category,” he said. “I think they are the best in their business and their discipline, in their driving style, techniques. That is different in each of the categories.”

“Maybe the most extreme one is probably Dakar or the rally raid where I think the specialists are nearly unbeatable. Wherever you come from and whatever discipline you won in the past, you will never beat them in pure pace.

“In IndyCar it’s the same thing, they are the best on IndyCar circuit and an IndyCar machine. And if they join Formula 1, they need the normal adaptation that we need if we go to an IndyCar machine. So it’s no different and I think we all have the same level, which is top level for each category.”

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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22 comments on “Herta’s IndyCar success should qualify him for F1 drive – Alonso”

  1. It’s literally impossible to judge Colton Herta’s qualifications for F1 based on his past results. That’s what happens when you don’t compete in F1 feeder series and it is why I think it’s fair to assign lower superlicense points to racing series that provide limited if any information on the subject.

    We’ll have more data next year, with him competing directly with Romain Grosjean.

    1. Do you think he’d drive unsafely or? If you speak of performance, I don’t see why he couldn’t get his chance anyway. If he turns out to be amongst the slower drivers, so be it. We already have a couple of slow guys, actually most have improved with experience (and the only way to get experience is to drive in F1, F2 is not the same at all). If Mazepin can drive, so can Herta, the only reason not so can be corruption (forcing the system where same organization controls all drivers’ careers, from diapers till retirement). This is also such an irony. F1 is almost humiliating itself in the attempt to expand in the US and organize races such as Miami GP, yet it prevents American drivers from entering the sport. Of course they’ll prefer Indy over F2, first of all because it’s much more attractive and financially doable, second because it’s their home series. So many people watch Indy races live or on TV. Organize F2 separately from F1 so we see how many of us care to watch.

      1. the 107% rule covers the worst-case scenario of a terrible driver getting a go. Super Licence points don’t work, never have done. It was a panic reaction to Max demonstrating drivers don’t need to spend millions on the F1 support series and the respective team fees that go along with it.

      2. You seem to mistake the lack of data on Colton Herta’s qualifications for evidence of lack of qualifications. It is not.

        1. He has proven himself to be a fast driver in a car of comparable speed to F2. Indycar is also full of great talent.
          He had a great season this year, he easily could’ve taken the championship if one more race had gone his way.

          Clearly there is a problem with the feeder series if Mazepin qualifies to race but Herta doesn’t. It’s arbitrary. Mazepin wouldn’t fair well in Indycar.

          1. So he’s proved competitive against a bunch of drivers that have never raced in F1. (and Eriksson, rookie Grosjean and still-there Bourdais)

            That’s my whole point. We don’t have useful data to compare Colton Herta’s qualifications against, we have little to no idea what the talent level in IndyCar is in general, and our best shot to add to that next year is Romain Grosjean post-accident and about a decade removed from the height of his success in F1.

            You see the importance of competing in the F1 ladder, especially F3 and F2, which give us a plethora of data on driver quality in spec cars and allow for cross-references even between different generations of cars and drivers.

    2. Max Verstappen finished 3rd in his debut year in cars (F3 Euro) and then went straight into F1.

      He’s now leading the F1 WDC.

      Kimi got into F1 after one year of Formula Renault UK.

      He won a F1 WDC.

      The current Super Licence system would have meant neither driver would have got their break in F1 when they did

      Teams should be free to pick who they want. Not who can afford to race multiple years in various feeder series (with the expensive teams who monopolise the front positions by and large) accruing SL points as the system now encourages.

      1. I don’t know how much weight your argument carries given that Kimi won his Championship in his 7th season in F1, and Max’ earliest opportunity to win a Championship would also be in his 7th year.

        1. Well, Max is the youngest F1 driver to win a race, and Kimi was on it day one. Results aren’t absolute parameters in F1 because the cars are a large % of performance. An educated viewer however can easily differentiate how good drivers vs their absolute posiiton, or otherwise you’d have to say F2 and the current super licence system is complete failure given Schumacher has had one Q2 appearance all year.

        2. So, you’re only good enough for F1 if you win a championship within your first few seasons?

      2. Kimi wasn’t eligible under the older licence system either – it took significant amounts of lobbying from Sauber, culminating with getting Mosely himself to agree to give a special waiver to the rules, and there were a lot of complaints at the time about Kimi getting special favours from the FIA to be allowed to compete.

        1. He was eligible. I don’t recall there being anything explicit in the regulations that meant they had to grant him a special waiver. All I remember is Max kicking up a fuss and it ended up with him being on some probation period.

    3. Herta subbed for Norris in F3 (Carlin) and also won in the same car Norris won in.

      1. Which, unfortunately, still tells us nothing, if you’re looking at the competition they faced.

        Again, Colton Herta is as clean a sheet as it gets when it comes to comparisons to anyone in the F1 ladder.

        1. If you watch Indycar at all, and I’m assuming you don’t, you’d know his “sheet” looks a lot better than some of the current drivers in F1

          1. Anyone can look up Colton Herta’s junior results, and I encourage you to do so.

            If you can find anything useful for comparison purposes, please tell me! Cause I wouldn’t want to hang my hat on him getting beaten by Lando Norris in F4-ish in 2015, or by one-time-GP-participant Jack Aitken in then-F3-ish across two weekends in 2016, or Alex Albon at the 2016 Zandvoort F3 Masters.

            Let me reiterate that a lack of data doesn’t imply a lack of qualifications, just that we have nothing to judge said qualifications on.

          2. You seem to be consciously ignoring his Indycar achievements. I don’t really give a hoot about about F4 or F3 when he was 15 years old. There’s only data lacking for you because you are looking in the wrong places. Perhaps try watching the series he is currently in, and not a Wikipedia page.

          3. @pastaman

            As I pointed out in my original post, Indycar provides very limited data in reference to F1 feeder series and F1 itself. You’re basically down to Eriksson (a race winner in Indycar, not exactly spectacular in F1), an ageing-out Bourdais and post-accident rookie Grosjean to get any data.

            And yes, that explicitly excludes the rest of the field, as there is little to no data available to quantify their quality in comparison to F1.

  2. I would love it if more drivers who were good enough were able to have their turn in F1.

    This is why F1 needs more teams to be honest.

  3. Mazepin has a F1 license. That is the “standard.” Every driver in Indy is qualified for F1.

    1. @jimfromus Regardless of what we think of him, he did manage to finish 2nd in GP3 and in the top 5 in the F2 standings in his second year, beating the likes of Zhou who are linked with an F1 seat for 2022. It’s not like it was Roy Nissany or Sean Gelael joining F1 having accomplished nothing really in their junior careers. My issue with Mazepin is more that he should probably be close to or at double digits for penalty points.

  4. In road circuits, IndyCar is even below F2 level in terms of lap times. So how on earth can anyone expect the FIA to award similar superlicense points to Indy Lights as F2? If even the top rung IndyCar is only somewhere around F2 level, how much lower down in pace would Indy Lights be compared to F2? Seems logical to me that the FIA isn’t awarding more superlicense points to Indy Lights.

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