Colton Herta, McLaren, Algarve International Circuit, 2022

Herta felt “close” to consistently quick lap times on F1 test debut for McLaren

2022 F1 season

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IndyCar race-winner Colton Herta felt he was close to lapping consistently at the limit after his two-day test for McLaren this week.

Herta, who joined McLaren’s test programme in March, drove last year’s MCL35M at the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal on Monday and Tuesday this week.

“I did get really comfortable in the car,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “I could feel the limit, maybe not the consistency that would come with a few more [testing] dates, but I felt like I was close.”

He covered 162 laps – almost two-and-a-half grand prix distances – at the Portuguese track which F1 raced at in 2020 and 2021.

“It was a lot of fun,” said the Andretti IndyCar driver. “A great two days getting acclimatised to the car, which is obviously quite a bit different to what I’m used to driving. A little bit of a different driving style. But the engineers were very helpful getting me up to speed.

“And what a car, what a car to drive. It’s really special not only to have a first test in a Formula 1 car, but in a race-winning Formula 1 car is even cooler.”

Even for a driver who has raced cars which average over 375kph at Indianapolis, the performance of an F1 car struck Herta.

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“Letting off the pit lane speed limiter and all the torque it’s pretty incredible. Even when you’re in such low rpm, it’s still pulls. That was the biggest thing for me, the straight-line speed, the acceleration and the braking.

“Obviously, the cornering speeds were higher than what you would get in an IndyCar, but it didn’t stick out to me as much as how impressive the acceleration and how easy it was with all this horsepower to put the throttle down. That was the biggest thing.”

Another significant difference was the power-assisted steering, which gave “a completely different feel”, said Herta. “Obviously, the feeling that you get from an IndyCar is way different, a lot because of the lack of power steering. So the overall kickback and smoothness of the wheel doesn’t really transcribe to what you’d get in a grand prix car.

“So that was something to get used, slowing down the hands. Obviously the speed’s a lot higher on the road courses. But overall, it was good to get a feeling and a taste of what these things can do.”

Herta “felt comfortable right away” in the car but said it took until later in the test to begin putting his best lap times together. “I felt like I got to the limit about midway through the day but that was just separate corners being put together.

“Whereas at the end of the second day I was pretty confident in putting the laps together, low fuel and high fuel and everything in between. But it took a while for sure.”

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McLaren is taking advantage of the opportunity to run an old chassis, under F1’s Testing of Previous Cars regulations, which it couldn’t do last year having just changed engine supplier. This meant they were able to conduct a lengthier test which gave Herta more time to learn the complexities of an F1 car.

“We are able to go through a lot of different things, a lot of different balance changes, mechanically, aerodynamically with the car,” he said. “Inside the car itself I got to play with all the other tools, settings and all that sort of stuff.

“So it was pretty cool to see the balance changes and what you could do with the car just inside the car, which is quite a bit more than what we are able to do in the IndyCar. So it is awesome, if you have a problem in one corner, you can adjust it at the flick of a finger.”

McLaren is using the test to evaluate whether to run Herta during a practice session this year. He said “it would definitely be something I’m open to,” though a one-hour session would offer him far less running time than he had this week.

“As far as the TPC test days, you can’t get better than that because you get the full track to yourself. You get all this time inside the car that obviously then FP1 in 60 minutes or so you wouldn’t get.

“But it would be cool to have a taste of the 2022 cars and see how they compare to this car. So yeah, I’d be up for it.”

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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...

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26 comments on “Herta felt “close” to consistently quick lap times on F1 test debut for McLaren”

  1. Good to see this kind of testing is now possible. I would hope they find a way to make it possible for the future too, since it would greatly help interesting prospects to get to know what driving an f1 car is really about. And prepare them for F1

    1. This kind of testing has always been possible hasn’t it? Only notable difference is that Herta could run in a ’21 car as there has been a major rules change, previously drivers would need to test in a car that was at least 3(?) years old.

      1. To me the budget cap also helps here, since it means teams will be more likely to have some team members who can operate such cars and a budget to do so (because they cannot use their service to count towards the budget).

      2. @David At least 2, but yes, the major technical rule change makes conducting such running more favorable.

  2. So this is the signal for Daniel to pack his stuff?

    1. So they can provide Herta with a car that’s rubbish at half the tracks and when he is on pace with Lando tell him to stay behind? Sounds like a good option…

    2. Tested using last year’s car. This year’s car is completely different… and worse.

      1. @corsair I for sure wouldn’t say worse but different, yes very much so.

    3. @macleod No, primarily because Herta is ineligible for a super license & is unlikely to become eligible in time for next season-opener.

      1. @jerejj Expect that to be the next change for F1. Top 30 Indy drivers will be eligible to drive F1.

        1. Super license matters are FIA’s responsibility, so only they can make system changes & highly doubtful they make such a change, especially since F2 & F3 are a priority as top feeder categories governed by them.

          1. @jerejj – if you saw how fast they block younger drivers getting a superlicense i think that is no problem to adjuct the rules a little. But i thought Herta scored points last year and in combination with this year should have enough.

          2. they’d make.

  3. They are testing Herta, they will be testing O’Ward, they might have promised Palou a test. Sure, it will influence their long term thinking about Daniel, but for the moment Herta doesn’t look like securing the points for a superlicence anyway this season @macleodd

    1. @bascb Correct and why would it make sense to make such a huge disruption and upheaval getting rid of Ricciardo while under contract? When most likely Herta (even with an FIA approval) will most likely not score any better than Ricciardo (if not worse) nor provide engineers with proper info to better the team. RIC is for sure doing poorly and performing well below normal expectations but I wouldn’t expect a kid outside of the F1 ladder system, with no time in the current car, has zero experience with F1 tire wear can just show up and match Lando? And do better than a top F2 driver.

      McLaren is a team that has greatly improved and trying to give the top three a run for their money, they need two top drivers to do that. I’m totally up to for Herta joining F1 but only if he is good enough and just not another paid driver (not from family but from sponsors) that F1 has been plagued with.

      Imagine if he ends being another Brandon Hartley? I’n not sure McLaren can afford that

  4. McLaren can’t make a car. Norris the super talent has been there 6 years and still doesn’t looking like winning a race. Why would anyone want to join them.

    1. He was close 2 times last year Barra

    2. This is his fourth season with a race seat.

      1. He is excellent and needs to position himself to replace Lewis at Mercedes ASAP or he will be left behind forever by Max, Leclerc and Russell.

      2. Mika won the first race in his 5th season in McLaren and double championship on his 6th and 7th season so who knows what’s going to happen!

    3. By this token – Why would anyone want to join Formula 1? Other than driving for the 2-3 top teams, you won’t have a winning car.
      In Formula 1, 4-6 drivers race for the win and the rest just participates, and here McLaren is as good as any other Alpine or Aston Martin.

      1. Accept he hasn’t just joined F1. Next year will be his 5th year of racing. He needs to urgently get himself in to a team that can win. McLaren have shown they can’t.

  5. Sergey Martyn
    13th July 2022, 20:52

    What about lap times?

    1. Any published four digit numbers with a decimal included will be meaningless without all the condition info and setup info related to that lap time is published and for sure McLaren will not publish it.
      There’ll be rumors, and typical boil plate press comments from team and drivers testing but in reality we’ll never really know, the driver probably doest really know; only the team engineers will know.

      If he crushed it, we’ll know that if McLaren rushes and offers him a contract but otherwise………………no indicators will be given until the official yah or nay is given.

    2. @Sergey Martyn Lap times never got recorded for private testing or any similar on-track running, or at least not via the official method involving timing transponders, etc.

      1. never ‘get’

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