Colton Herta, Andretti, Indianapolis Grand Prix, 2022

Rules break to let Herta into F1 would ‘kill’ junior series ladder – De Vries

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 has built a “nice” ladder for young talent which it must not ruin by giving a dispensation for an IndyCar driver to enter, says Formula E champion Nyck de Vries.

Red Bull wants to place IndyCar race-winner Colton Herta at its junior team AlphaTauri next year. However Herta does not currently have sufficient superlicence points to race in F1. The FIA is thought to be unwilling to grant him a dispensation to race in the series.

De Vries, who won the Formula 2 championship in 2019 and added the FE title two years later, is vying for a place on the F1 grid next year. He took part in his third F1 practice session of the season today, and afterwards said deviating from the rules to let Herta in would establish a damaging precedent for young drivers.

“I trust in the governing body,” Herta told media including RaceFans. “I think rules are there to be respected.

“There are plenty of other drivers in the market that have superlicence points. The necessity is not necessarily that high to go and give someone dispensation to get a superlicence.

“Plus, in my own opinion, it would give an incorrect precedent and example to the Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships.”

In recent years the former GP2 and GP3 series have been rebranded as F2 and F3 respectively. Each awards more superlicence points for aspiring F1 drivers. De Vries said allowing Herta in would lead to more young drivers entering American junior championships.

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“The knock-[on] effect would be much greater than just giving dispensation,” he said. “First because there would be many more knocking on the door for a certain request.

Nyck de Vries, Aston Martin, Monza, 2022
F1 has a “nice” junior series ladder, says De Vries
“Secondly, you could argue that people going from Formula Four to Formula Three could decide to escape to the US because in Indy Lights you only have 12 cars on the grid, and it’s much easier to score points, and then you could come back. Then you almost kill and jeopardise the ladder we have been building over the years which now is so nice.

“I compare our platform to what we see in [Moto GP with] Moto 3 and Moto 2. There is a clear ladder, a clear path to Formula 1, so it would be a shame if we jeopardise our system and I also think it’s unnecessary.”

De Vries is hopeful an opportunity will open up for him to enter F1 next year. His strongest chance appears to be Williams, where Nicholas Latifi’s future is in doubt.

However he said he isn’t getting his hopes up at this early stage that he’ll be on the F1 grid next year. “I wouldn’t build my future on solely hope and on the volatility of this paddock,” he said. “But at the same time it is a dream I’d like to fulfil and I also think I deserve an opportunity.

“So I will be judging the opportunities carefully in the upcoming time and then yeah, decide what is ultimately best for my career.”

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2022 Italian Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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42 comments on “Rules break to let Herta into F1 would ‘kill’ junior series ladder – De Vries”

  1. De Vries couldn’t be more right, especially on dispensation that I’ve also pointed out.

    1. Let’s not forget this is a business and they have pretty wide reign to do what they want (in relationship to their business). So many people on here seem to forget the cold hard truth that F1 is NOT actually about maximizing your (the true F1 Fan) enjoyment, its maximizing their pocketbook.

      Another argument for an exception is that one could argue the experience and caliber of an Indy driver will help a young driver mature and develop much faster than F3 or F2. There are many seasoned racing drivers, including ex Formula 1 drivers, in Indy.

      Ultimately all rules to do with racing are arbitrary rules meant to govern what is a (sorry to say) meaningless endeavor. The only meaning it can ever have is to provide entertainment, and so why not do it in a way that maximizes entertainment (a value which is currently measured by Liberty’s pocketbook).

    2. Indeed, why should someone with talent, but not enough money find an alternative route into F1. If F2 and F3 cost less, then fine, enshrine them ad the only route into F1, but I’m not a fan of a monopoly that is unaccessible to some. Basically it’s get an F1 team to sign you up and fund you, or have a wealthy dad.

  2. “I trust in the governing body,” Herta told media including RaceFans. “I think rules are there to be respected.

    Should that be De Vries, rather than Herta?

    1. I would think so.

  3. Firstly, the fact that Indy Car is weighted less than F2 in terms of Super license points is a joke. Then factor in, as a feeder series to Indy Car, Indy Lights is weighted less than European regional formula championships, it becomes clear the deck is stacked against North American racers. Herta is a multiple Indy race winner, which is more experience than Raikkonen had before he stepped foot in a Grand Prix car at Sauber.

    It sounds less like De Vries is a devout “by the book” kind of guy and more like he’s annoyed/jealous some American will get a race seat before he does.

    1. @btcamp He’s just pointing out the truth.
      Giving dispensation without a strongly justifiable reason would open a can of worms as other drivers would also start asking for dispensations over something small or trivial, in which case double standard treatment would arise unless FIA were willing to treat all drivers equally in this regard.

      1. I’m not so sure it would lead to more drivers asking for dispensations. In the case of Herta, he’s totally justified as a multiple winner of a high caliber racing series. It’s not like every kid who does well in Sim racing and thinks they have what it takes is going to send a well-written letter to the FIA and get into F1.

        Based on how exclusive the F1 grid is, I don’t blame de Vries for being vocal, but his motives are incredibly transparent. He wants the seat Herta is favored for.

        1. @btcamp I think de Vries is right to focus on the repercussions for creating an exception for Indy Lights’ car count. It would be bad not only for the FIA’s ladder system, but for IndyCar’s, too, if drivers from the European scene were to parachute into a depleted Indy Lights series, win the championship, collect the superlicence points, and then decline to use IndyCar’s advancement prize towards a full IndyCar season and go back to F3 or F2.

          I agree with you that Herta is qualified, and I would have no objection if the FIA were to simply hand him a superlicence based on the eye test.

          But to concoct some sort of force majeure justification to award him 40 points by disregarding Indy Lights’ car count would be disingenuous considering that the FIA already reviewed the exact season in question when Pato O’Ward was a Red Bull academy driver. It was the FIA’s decision then that the car count requirement would stand for the 2018 Lights season—when O’Ward beat Herta for the championship—that effectively tanked O’Ward’s F1 career.

          Better to award more superlicence points for IndyCar permanently, not create an exception for Indy Lights.

    2. You are correct sir!

    3. Formula E and IndyCar have the same superlicense points distribution.

      An F2 driver can score 6th and 2nd in two years of F2, and have a superlicense.

      An F3 driver can score 4th in the series 3 years running, and be eligible for a superlicense.

      An IndyCar driver has to score 3rd twice in a row, or finish 2nd and 4th across two seasons. Given the relative difficulty of the various series, IndyCar isn’t that far behind F1, and may be a serious competitor as FIA limits development, and IndyCar brings in the new 900 HP engines.

      IndyCar should be scored at least the same as F2.

  4. petebaldwin (@)
    9th September 2022, 18:07

    They brought in stupid rules but no-one complained that trying for to make Indycar look like a minor series by giving it minimal points was a problem before. Just because they want an Indycar driver now doesn’t change anything.

    If you want to change the rules, change them. Don’t just bend the rules because it suits Liberty and one of the teams.

    1. Actually, a lot of IndyCar-focused folks did complain at first (along with Super Formula in Japan) but that likely didn’t move the needle for an F1-focused fanbase. In the years that’s followed much has changed in a broader sense, and it’s getting more of a broad focus now with a current IndyCar driver being targeted.

  5. Complete nonsense. De Vries looks really scared that even his Mercedes connections would fail to get him on the grid next year. The ladder is everything, but nice! The Indycar championship is a whole level above and it’s much easier to score points in F2 and even F3.

  6. Unless you have Villeneuve or Montoya level creds, you don’t deserve an F1 seat. Sorry, Colton, hope you can win Indy next year.

    1. You’re funny. You also left out Andretti.

    2. Ambrogio Isgro
      9th September 2022, 22:42

      So we have the likes of Stroll and Latifi in, why not Colton Herta?
      If F1 is only for drivers in the league of Montoya, I think that half the grid could go home right now!

  7. The primary concern shouldn’t be about funnelling young drivers through an FIA/F1 sanctioned/Backed ladder to F1.

    It should be about giving the best, most promising drivers an opportunity regardless of where they happened to race on there way up.

    I feel the same way about the current attitude to new teams. Things are getting too closed off and restrictive. They should be welcoming serious proposed entries and allowing drivers from outside the system opportunities to have a go.

    1. I came here to say this. The superlicence and its points system isn’t meant to be about a “ladder” to F1, as though earning tokens to buy your way in. It’s meant to be about demonstrating that a driver is of high enough calibre to drive in the “premier” series, safely. Naturally the ability to award these points creates a market for series that wish to award them, but that market isn’t the point – even if some of those series are meant to be the official feeders into F1. IMO points aren’t a great way to evaluate whether a driver is ready, but that’s what we have – but they absolutely are not there for the benefit of the feeder series, but to perform the function of assessing a driver’s readiness. And they clearly fail by excluding a talent like Herta.

  8. Call me crazy, but a F1 team should be allowed to hire whoever they want for their seats. There is a penalty point system that can swiftly kick anyone out who isn’t ip to snuff.

    Anyone who thinks Herta isn’t qualified for F1 has a motive behind it. This rideless F2 Champion would fall in that category. Your career has stalled. Move on to WEC, IMSA, or IndyCar. It isn’t happening.

    1. F1 team should be allowed to hire whoever they want for their seats

      This! I’m completely at odds with the entire ethos of what de Vries is saying here. Not just wrong, completely wrong.

    2. “A F1 team should be allowed to hire whoever they want for their seats”…so long as the driver has proven to be competent enough to not kill other drivers, hence a licensing mechanism.

      Which is all “LICENSE” points are really for. But like all human activities, it got co-opted into something other than the purpose.

      In any case, yeah, Herta is completely fine to be an F1 driver. Anyone who knows anything about racing a car who has watched him can see this.

      TBH, here’s how I would approve drivers for a superlicense: Have the F1 drivers vote. If they vote someone in, they are willing to race with that person. Good enough for me.

    3. De Vries is the last person to ask for an unbiased opinion.
      Having said that, there are rules and mechanisms in place. If a team wants him in a seat, they can utilise them (at this stage they just want it for the princely sum of having a whinge in public … as usual).

  9. The so called F1 feeder series is more of an Indycar feeder series.

    1. Perfectly said!!! Hah!! 100%

  10. For me, the great irony is that under the current system, Jimmie Johnson would have been eligible for a superlicence from 2009–2011, yet Colton Herta isn’t.

    1. Oh god! Yeah, Johnson is barely good enough for Indy Car! Yet Scott McLoughlin fresh out of V8 Supercars is performing amazingly.

  11. Building a ladder, or pulling it up behind you?

  12. Then don’t give a special dispensation to a specific driver, just increase the SL points Indy gives and apply it retroactively to all drivers.

    1. This is definitely the best solution.

  13. Nonsense! The rule is a cynical attempt by F1 / FIA to discredit other single seat formula not under their umbrella. Back in the day, Bernie had a rule that even the F1 circuits couldn’t host IndyCar races, lest it be known that another single seat formula be in town!
    F! seats should be rewarded to talented enough drivers regardless of their career ladders (or father’s bank balance).

  14. I’m happy as long as F1 is attracting the most talented drivers. If Herta turns out not to be, he’ll be out in a year or two anyway. The ladder he speaks of is largely meaningless anyway. Just look at the Piastri fiasco! If the ladder was genuine, the F2 champion should be guaranteed an F1 seat the following season.

  15. All he has to do is one year of F2, and he’ll probably get a drive (if he’s up to it and has the financial backing).

  16. If anyone is in any doubt about the relative merits of Indycar Vs Formula 1, I give you Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean. Definite journeymen in F1, leading drivers in Indycar.

    1. @nvherman this is a foolish comment for people who have no idea about Indycar. These two names are mid-pack runners most of the time.

    2. It’s also a foolish comment for people who understand F1, where neither driver ever really had a front-running car for very long (if ever).

      And as neiana notes – while they both have their strong moments in Indycar, they are not at the front consistently.

      1. And why didn’t Ericsson and Grosjean ever get into top teams?
        Could it be because they were not talented enough to be considered for them?
        Don’t forget, the current penalty points system exists due to Grosjean’s shocking driving and subsequent multi car accident at Spa 2012.
        They may not be front runners in Indycar most of the time, as you rightly say, but they are a lot further forward than they ever were in F1

        1. And why didn’t Ericsson and Grosjean ever get into top teams? Could it be because they were not talented enough to be considered for them?

          Grosjean did quite well when Lotus were quick, often outpacing Raikkonen.
          We could ask why a lot of drivers don’t get a decent shot in a big team, but there are a multitude of factors behind it, and only one of them is the driver’s ability. Driver readiness, marketability, manufacturer links, their management, political issues, nationality, seat availability and general perception also all play a role, among others.

          Spa 2012 (as was mentioned a week or two ago) wasn’t all Grosjean’s fault. It just happened to be that Grosjean had been in a few other incidents prior and had gotten a bit of a reputation amongst some people.
          Go through his career and tell me honestly that all of the incidents he was involved in were entirely his fault. Some people might believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.

          As for their place in Indycar – exactly! When they get equal equipment, they aren’t at such a disadvantage and don’t look so bad.
          And that’s why several (ex-F1) drivers go to Indycar – it’s a driver’s series more so than a technical one.

    3. If you have a single working brain cell, you’d understand that Lewis Hamilton would also be a journeymen in the cars they had driven. Just replace Hamilton’s name in that statement with Alonso’s…
      Compare George Russel’s results this year in a Mercedes and last year’s in a Williams. I shouldn’t even have to point to this.

      1. But everyone could see that putting Russell in a top car would produce the results he’s getting now, this is no surprise.

        Every driver needs a top car to win multiple times. Those with the talent get given those chances.
        Alonso (and to an extent, Ricciardo) is his own worst enemy as far as career choices go, but no one ever doubts Alonso’s skills

  17. …nevertheless RBR will be pushing hard to get Herta a F1 licence, if not for his talent, but to have a ‘local‘ help PER boost sales of Red Bull in the mega American continent market.

  18. The goal should always be to try at least to have the best drivers and the best talent in Formula 1. This isn’t the case with how the feeder series and superlicense distribution works. You can buy your way forward under the right circumstances through the feeder series like being with Prema for the past many years in F3 was a guarentee for great SL points. And with the feeder series, specially F3 being the best/easiest way to qualify, prices will keep soaring to limit the type of people being able to afford such a seat. Of course they are in most cases backed by companies or private investors, but that means they need to deliver at an increasingly earlier stage in their career to receive such backing. Late bloomers are history and drivers from smaller nations will have a harder time getting private investors to back. The way things are going it limits the amount of talent going forward.

    If Formula 1 wants to be the best racing series in the world it shouldn’t only be because of a dream or reknown, but also by the actual fact that every series is a feeder series to Formula 1, also Indycar. Herta is right now with McLaughlin the biggest talent in Indycar, hence it makes every bit of sense for him to get a shot at Formula 1. Yes he isn’t with the right team right now to make the SL points work, and yes he is still rough on the edges, but the talent is there. Whats more important, a number or the actual racing.

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