Alex Palou, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2022

Palou and Herta admit their F1 hopes appear to be over

Formula 1

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Two IndyCar drivers previously tipped as potential candidates for Formula 1 seats have admitted their chances of entering the series have faded.

Alex Palou, who won his second IndyCar title in three years last season in dominant fashion, drove for McLaren in first practice for the United States Grand Prix in 2022. However their relationship ended after he decided to remain with his Ganassi IndyCar team and cease pursuing an F1 drive through McLaren.

He told media this week he is no longer seeking a move into F1. “I tried,” he said. “It didn’t really work out. That’s okay.

“We’ll try and get many championships if we can, and we’ll try and fight for as many championships and Indy 500s as possible.”

Andretti driver Colton Herta was originally linked to the AlphaTauri F1 seat which went to Nyck de Vries last year. Red Bull was unable to place him at their junior team as Herta had not scored sufficient FIA superlicence points.

Colton Herta, Andretti
Herta called 2023 his “worst season in IndyCar”
Herta’s best hope of entering F1 now rests with his Andretti team, which the FIA has approved to enter F1. However Andretti is yet to agree terms with Formula One Management to join as an 11th entry.

The superlicence problem also remains, now compounded by Herta enduring what he described as “my worst season in IndyCar” as he slumped to 10th in the standings. At 23, three years younger than Palou, he admitted his chances of reaching F1 are also fading.

“I think it’s very time-sensitive,” said Herta. “I’m probably at the highest age that I could probably go over there with a team, maybe, besides Andretti.

“I don’t have anything to report on their side of things. I think their goal is still to get a Formula 1 team, and they’re still trying to. If that happens we’ll have to see what timeline that is and how old I’ll be and where I’m at in my life at that point.

“So for me, really, just the main focus right now is IndyCar, and we’ll see where it goes.”

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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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35 comments on “Palou and Herta admit their F1 hopes appear to be over”

  1. Somehow Logan Sergeant keeps his seat in F1.

    1. Nunaya Dambizness
      12th January 2024, 8:12

      Well, at least Sargeant did enough to earn the requisite number of superlicense points, something Herta STILL has yet to do, so there’s that…

      1. Which mainly proves that the license system is not well balanced…

        Maybe the buzz around Herta was a bit overblown (he’s still far from Palou’s results), but he’s much more impressive and well rounded than Sargent.

        1. HAL Maybe not as well balanced as possible, but I don’t blame FIA for prioritizing F2 over IndyCar & other series that aren’t governed by them.

          1. Coventry Climax
            12th January 2024, 14:44

            But I do: If it’s a world championship, then everyone should be allowed to compete; which means both teams and/or drivers.
            They should then all compete according to the racing rules set by the FiA, which is about all they should govern.

        2. HAL, was Red Bull necessarily all that interested in Herta to begin with? Or were there ulterior motives at play?

          Herta himself seemed to be rather confused about why Red Bull had, out of nowhere, suddenly shown interest in him, given he’d had no contact and no clear links with Red Bull until then. However, Red Bull’s interest in Herta coincided with them engaging in protracted talks with Alpine over Gasly moving to them, with Red Bull stating that they’d only let Gasly go if Herta was given approval to take his seat.

          Maybe the real interest Red Bull had was in getting a bigger payout from Alpine to release Gasly early? They knew that Alpine was in a weak negotiating position, and courting Herta might let Red Bull say “well, we’d like to hire a new driver in Gasly’s place, but unfortunately the FIA is not letting us replace him and so we won’t release Gasly. However, if you pay us a larger fee, then maybe we can reconsider the matter…”.

          Certainly, once Alpine agreed on compensation to Red Bull for releasing Gasly early, Red Bull’s interest in Herta seemed to dry up remarkably quickly, with the only real thing that Marko has said since then is that Herta is now no longer the sort of driver that suits their needs. Similarly, they’ve not said anything about the superlicence points system since then or shown any interest in Herta’s career subsequent to the initial talks.

  2. I can’t help but think Palou’s chances were wrecked by his own doing.

    If Lando gets a better drive then there could have been a space for Palou in the future but he burned that small chance.

    1. I do think that Piastri coming available was part of the puzzle too. But yeah, in essence Palou made his choice for a solid place in Indycar instead of the hope of having an F1 shot in the future. Hard to fault him for the choice really, although the way he came to it was rather messy!

  3. Especially Palau should be able to find a spot in F1.
    It seems that the junior driver programmes, and similar contracts, make it more difficult for the cream to rise to the top.

    1. Formula 1 advertises F3 and F2 as the ‘Road to F1’. For better or worse, I think now more than ever if you’re not willing (or can’t afford) to take the prescribed route as set out by the FIA and Liberty, then you can’t expect any opportunities.

      1. Palou has been qualified to race in F1 for years, and everyone in F1 knows he’s doing good in Indycar.

        But the teams he might care to drive for evidently don’t want him, and why would he change his great spot in Indycar for a seat alongside Albon or something like that at the back of the grid?

      2. OK, sure. And, for better or worse, we the viewers can be less interested in F1 as a “World” championship, because, really, it isn’t.

    2. notagrumpyfan, the way in which Palou backed out of his contract with McLaren does seem to have made teams think that he can’t be trusted to abide by a deal.

      In the ongoing lawsuit by McLaren, Palou has said in his submissions to the court that McLaren had every right to sue him for breach of contract – it’s just the amount of money that he owes them that he disputes. If you’re a team boss looking at that legal case, would you want to open negotiations with Palou?

      1. They need a better team boss and lawyer to make the agreement and write the contract.
        Any contract can be broken, and the non breaking party should be relatively happy with the penalty payment (or should’ve negotiated better).
        Incompetence of others should not stop the next one to pursue his interests.

        1. notagrumpyfan, your comments about “incompetence of others” and suggesting that they “need a better team boss and lawyer to make the agreement and write the contract” indicates you don’t understand what Palou’s legal team were saying in court.

          The statement they have made in court openly stated that Palou “renounced his contractual obligations” with McLaren in a way that “entitled them to sue for damages”. The statements they’ve been making in court indicate that Palou did not really intend to ever follow through with the contract with McLaren – it’s that attitude that is the problem, and why teams are more wary of dealing with him now.

  4. Colton Herta needs to fulfil his potential in Indycar first to be on the same pedestal as Palou for future F1 chances.

  5. Red Bull are in the precarious position of having 1 exceptional driver and 3 absolutely rubbish ones, with maybe 1 or 2 possibly OK ones on the distant horizon. They need to finally make amends and snap up Palou for RB, maybe in September after the Indycar season is done. He’s a fantastic all-rounder with a smooth calculating style which will transfer very well to F1’s marshmallow tyres. Give him a year and a bit in an RB, and he’ll be ready to step up to the main team.

    I’m a big fan of Palou but not at all a fan of Red Bull, so I don’t really know whether I want this to happen…

  6. Essentially, they are both saying that F1 isn’t worth leaving Indycar for.

    A (good) year in F2 would have given them the necessary superlicence points and put them directly on the path to F2, right under all the F1 teams noses – but they chose not, because Indycar is by far the better option, especially from a driver’s perspective.

  7. They really need to get rid of the point system already. Verstappen already won 3 championships and took half the records, there was no reason for this overreaction to his promotion to F1, it was the right move. The system isn’t solving a problem that actually exists.

    1. They really need to get rid of the point system already.

      It’s not the points system which is stopping real talents getting promoted to F1.
      The problem is that drivers are linked to F1 teams via their junior drivers programmes or other contracts. This means that talented drivers have only two potential seats rather than 20 potential seats to progress to F1.
      And no aspiring driver will cut short his/her driver programme contract (and maybe have to pay a hefty fine) to only get the second seat at Haas, Williams, or Sauber.

      1. It was a problem for Herta, and some other drivers. That there are other problems doesn’t change that this is a problem.

        1. It was a problem for Herta

          Then maybe he wasn’t a ‘real talent’ ;)

          I would drop (or drastically change) the points system as well, but that won’t resolve the biggest hurdle (for real talents) to get into F1: contracts and financial implications.

      2. It certainly puts IndyCar at a big disadvantage compared with other series. Herta would probably already been an Alpha Tauri driver.

        1. Indycar is the second highest rated series in the entire scheme, and there are half a dozen F1-qualified people in Indycar – not counting the former F1 drivers. While there are certainly some issues with the point system, the reason Herta doesn’t have enough points is because his results are bad, and have been for years.

    2. @sjaakfoo I agree with you about removing the points system altogether.
      Keeping the minimum age limit of 18 alongside the minimum 300 km at racing speeds & rule study requirements should be enough for getting a super license.
      The points system (that was a knee-jerk reaction anyway) has become more & more redundant over time.

    3. They really need to get rid of the point system already.

      They really don’t.
      For all the perceived negatives, there are several pretty important positives too – not least of which is the automatic exclusion of anyone who has not demonstrated that they are suitably qualified, prepared and responsible enough to drive such high performance machinery in competition in F1’s unique (financial/marketing/prestigious) environment.
      Verstappen is a prime example as he really wasn’t ready to enter F1 when he did – clearly evidenced by his inconsistency, repeated lack of control and irresponsible (often dangerous) racecraft during those early years. He really did race like a teenager with an air of invincibility and lack of respect (for himself and others). Arguably, he still does…

      For those who think that F1 is, or should be, about the ‘best’ drivers in the ‘best’ cars in the ‘best’ racing series in the world – this is the chosen method of qualification for that.
      It’s a system based on sustained quality of performance which isn’t simply for sale to the highest bidder.
      F1 would do well to apply this to the teams as well as the drivers…

      1. I disagree, if anything verstappen proved you don’t need to be 18 to race in f1 and was a pretty good driver from the start, he actually only made a considerable amount of mistakes early on in 2018, before and after that he was barely making mistakes.

  8. Doesn’t seem to matter what you win, its hard to get into F1 anyway.

  9. The silly super licence points system needs to be abolished & teams should be free to run any driver they wish to run so long as he/she is able to show they can handle an F1 car via completing a certain number of km in an F1 car which was the way it worked for decades before the overreaction to Max Verstappen been so young in 2014/15.

    F1 is becoming such a closed shop & so overly restrictive now that i’m no longer sure it deserves to be called the pinnacle of the sport any longer.

    It doesn’t want from outside the F1 system, It doesn’t want new teams, It wants all the cars to look/perform the same, It wants all the engines to perform the same…. The whole thing is completely broken and it all goes against the very spirit of what F1 as a SPORT used to be.

    F1 is a show now, A very tightly controlled increasingly Americanised show.

  10. I can’t decide what I think of Herta, the guy definitely has speed but he also has a tendency to throw away a good result. In his best season he finished 3rd in the championship, but in the past two seasons he’s been lacklustre finishing 10th. Part of it is down to Andretti having been poor in recent seasons and there being no sign of an upward trend. At best they’ve been the 4th best team behind Ganassi, Penske and Mclaren with no sign of them being able to take the fight to them.

    If the offer was on the table Herta would be better off leaving Andretti for one of those teams to have the chance of getting those superlicense points and to prove a point up against the likes of Palou, Dixon and Pato. But then Andretti is probably his last real hope of making it to F1 if they somehow do manage to convince F1 to let them in as the 11th team, and I can understand him not wanting to spurn them by leaving for another team.

  11. Palou deserves to get to drive for nothing below a RedBull, Mercedes or McLaren/Ferrari. Anything worse is a waste of time for him. He’s that good.
    He could possibly be next to Verstappen at RedBull what Senna was next to Prost at McLaren.

    And Herta… Herta needs to start talking with his results, not words.

  12. I don’t see what you guys see in Palou or Herta, they’re are nothing amazing, some poster earlier even compared Palou to Senna, like c’mon, Palou couldn’t even get top 3 in GP3.

    Herta can have the excuse that he’s american and the point system rewards more being in europe, but not Palou, he had his chance and wasn’t F1 material.

    Just because somebody is good in indycar now doesn’t mean that will translate to F1, and seriously if they want F1 so much just take the payment hit and go do F2, if they are so good they should dominate from the get go right?

    1. Comparing Palou to Senna is definitely an exaggeration. But using his time in GP3 to knock him isn’t a good example either. It maybe a spec series but teams do matter. He was with Campos one of the worst run teams and scored all their points.

      Whereas in Indycar he has been given the best team and is making the most of it, but if he was stuck with one of the worst team he would not ve winning like he has been.

      Point being he’s not as good as some think and better than his junior career suggested.

      As for just going and racing in F2, the problem with that is it’s super expensive. You can only do it if you are rich, have wealthy backers, or are already part of an F1 junior programme. Most drivers get to F1 now either by paying their way (Stroll, Latifi, Mazepin) or being a junior early in their careers. These are not options for the like of Herta and Palou.

  13. I’d love to see Palou going against Verstappen with a decent car, as I believe he may be the best driver on earth at the moment. But, that’s something we’ll never get a chance to see.

  14. Palou is good enough to get a proper sniff of F1. Its doubtful any other team will look at him after his contract shenanigans. Its not out of the question that a seat at McLaren could open in the next couple of years. Norris might be tempted by a move to Red Bull or Oscar might get snapped up if his progress continues. So Palou might be kicking himself should O’ward is given a chance.

    Herta I’m not as convinced by. He’s had a few good results.

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