Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Colton Herta

FIA can’t claim Herta didn’t deserve an F1 drive after changing rules for Antonelli


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It was already known last month that the FIA had received a request to alter its superlicence rules to let Andrea Kimi Antonelli make his Formula 1 debut before he turns 18.

But even without that it wouldn’t have been hard to guess who was intended to benefit from the latest changes to the International Sporting Code’s rules regarding superlicences. Note that’s ‘changes’, plural – for not one but two alterations to the licence rules were needed to open a door for Antonelli.

The dispensation to the maximum age limit has gained the most attention. Just eight years ago the FIA told us anyone younger than 18 years old wasn’t allowed to race in F1 any more, but now they will grant a dispensation to a 17-year-old if, in the FIA’s view, they have “recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition.”

However a further change on top of that also means superlicence holders no longer need to hold road driving licences. This is significant for Antonelli as the minimum driving age in Italy is 18 years, and if that troublesome line hadn’t been deleted he was still facing another two months of Formula 2.

Colton Herta, Alex Palou, start, Detroit, IndyCar, 2024
Herta was on pole at Detroit earlier this year
The FIA’s has reacted differently to this request for Antonelli – a Mercedes junior driver, though the team says it did not make a request to the FIA – and Red Bull’s attempt to get a superlicence for Andretti IndyCar driver Colton Herta for the 2023 season.

Herta only failed to make the grade on one count rather than two. He satisfied the age limit and all other criteria besides the requirement to score 40 superlicence points – awarded by his results in various series – over a three-year period.

This requirement was altered for the pandemic-affected 2020 season to allow drivers to count the points scored in a year when movement was not as severely restricted. However Red Bull’s hopes the FIA would overlook Herta’s superlicence points shortfall were dashed, and they instead hired Nyck de Vries, who lasted less than half a season before being dropped.

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Herta and several of his IndyCar peers were unimpressed he did not automatically qualify for a superlicence despite his success in the series. Today’s news prompted further dismayed responses. “Oh, so exceptions can be made?” Alexander Rossi asked.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Toto Wolff, Monaco, 2024
Antonelli is considered a shoo-in for an F1 drive
Strictly and pedantically speaking, no. Antonelli has not been given an exception from the rules: the rules have been changed. Still, if the FIA can give itself the power to admit those who don’t reach the 18-year threshold, it would have been no more difficult to admit those who don’t reach the 40-point threshold.

But asking whether Herta should have been given the same exception as Antonelli misses the point. Herta should never have needed an exception in the first place.

His performances in IndyCar were easily sufficient to prove him capable of driving a Formula 1 car. This is a series with an extremely competitive field, racing at average speeds higher than those seen in F1 on ovals and at F2-beating speeds on road and street courses.

Yet the FIA awards just 124 superlicence points in total to IndyCar’s top 10 participants each year. That’s less not only than Formula 2 (201) but even Formula 3 (128), which is frankly insulting.

The solution is not to wave a single IndyCar driver into F1 in a tokenistic gesture but to rebalance the superlicence points system entirely, awarding more points to IndyCar’s drivers than F2’s. But the FIA has shown no interest in doing this.

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That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it has often undervalued the efforts of drivers outside European series. It was the case when CART IndyCar points leader Michael Andretti was denied a superlicence in 1986 while a regional Formula 3 driver got in, six later when a Japanese Formula 3000 race-winner was snubbed for a driver who seldom troubled the scorers in the equivalent European series, and so on.

It smacks of the same self-interested attitude which is presently keeping Herta’s IndyCar team, Andretti, out of F1. It’s not hard to see why it is already generating ill feeling. But none of that should be targeted at Antonelli, who is merely the beneficiary of a flawed system, not its architect.


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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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72 comments on “FIA can’t claim Herta didn’t deserve an F1 drive after changing rules for Antonelli”

  1. The commercial rights to F2 and F3 are owned by F1, and it seems to me fairly obvious that they’re making sure that’s the pathway to F1, without giving anyone else a serious look in. If Indycar, Super Formula, WEC or whatever started to become a serious pathway to F1, then that would undermine F2 and F3.

    1. It’s basically how they killed WSR, they gave the top category fewer super license points than GP3, when at the time the competition was at GP2’s level. WEC is actually overrated (or it was a few years ago, I haven’t checked the criteria in a while), which is how Hartley entered F1, but after his peformances weren’t good enough, I don’t think the teams are looking there anyways.

    2. @f1hornet whilst you point to the commercial rights, the FIA itself has also long been insisting that it wants to set up a specific structure to entering Formula 1.

      Back in 2013, Gerhard Berger, in his role as the FIA’s Single Seat Commission President, stated that the FIA’s own position was that they wanted a simplified and standardised path for drivers to move through junior series and into Formula 1, and that they wanted to significantly cut down on the number of junior categories (a number of which they saw as not really leading anywhere, or otherwise resulting in resources being diluted across multiple series that were effectively duplicating themselves).

      Whilst the FIA eventually formalised that with their Global Pathway in 2014, which is their particular programme for making drivers go through series from Formula 4 to Formula 1, they were already encouraging drivers to follow a broadly similar pathway before that (indeed, Max Mosely appears to have been considering the idea of creating a more formalised pathway for drivers through junior series towards the end of his tenure as FIA President).

    3. It’s always been obvious that was the case. When the superlicence points system was first launched, the largest amount of points were reserved for a future hypothetical Formula 2 that didn’t then exist (this was before GP2 became F2 and after Jonathan Palmer’s “F2” experiment had failed).

    4. Their anti-American bias is showing… again.

      1. The funny thing is that F1 is not a very Motorsport sport. In indycar and eec and they actually push and race beca6they run tyres that can. Sundays in F1 are more like tyre day care. Even in lemans for 24 hours they’re pushing (fuel saving is not the same as tyre saving). So arguably wec and indycar and super formula also have more experience actually racing and pushing. We’ve seen when F1 driver actually have to push they start making mistakes

    5. Drivers like Raikkonen and Max, who had almost zero experience (especially Kimi) and were mere babes, long ago showed that neither is a bar to being safe let alone competent drivers. It’s why this first aspect of the rule is ridiculous.

      The aspect that treats the best drivers from non-FIA series as if they were basically amateurs and the fact the system is clearly designed to make huge amounts of money for FIA licenses is just egregious and corrupt.

      The 107% rule (make it 105% if needed) is the only rule that is needed. If a driver is fast enough, they’re good enough

      1. COTD

    6. It comes across like the Mercedes political team is in full swing once again.

  2. Keith, you seem very disillusioned with Formula 1 at the moment.

    1. As most of us non-new F1 enthusiasts are, feels like. I like maybe 1/10 of changes they make, ever since after the covid season. Nobody gives a… pear about how we feel or what we want anymore (I.e. some basic level meritocracy and sporting criteria when things are being judged and decided, consistency, at least basic honesty when it comes to intentions etc.).

    2. Based on this one article? If I or many of the others I read on this site were writing, there would be a lot more critical stories, but then again a site filled with stories that bummed you out might not work too well and he’d likely end up getting his media pass revoked.

      But, like Dex said, there is just so much wrong with F1 right now. The good news is that most of it could easily fixed.

      1. PS: …the bad news, is that won’t.

      2. Most of the ‘comment’ articles and Keith’s tweets on the round-up articles are about something negative. To me it seems like someone who used to love F1 but is utterly sick of it at the moment. But that is not criticising, it makes it more interesting to read.

        For me personally, I am really enjoying F1 right now. There is plenty wrong with it like the Andretti snubbing and I generally don’t like the ground effect cars much. But as long as I can watch a race and not really be sure what the outcome will be I will enjoy it, and after being so starved of this in 2023 it is such a relief to see McLaren, Ferrari and now even Mercedes challenging Red Bull.

  3. While I agree IndyCar being undervalued, the super license points rule is imho far more important than the age or drivers license rule.

    If you are good enough, you are old enough. But being old enough and having a drivers license doesn’t make you good enough. So the comparison with the request for Herta is comparing apples with oranges imho.

    1. Both are valid examples. It’s just a tacit admission that the license system makes absolutely no sense and has been implemented for mostly corrupt reasons. As you said, if you’re fast enough, you’re good enough.* End of story.

    2. This was exactly what I was coming to the comments to say. Though I do agree the super licence points need to be adjusted for Indycar, the fact is Antonelli has scored enough points before he even got into F3 or F2. That is highly unusual. When Herta arrived in Indycar he had some exceptional races but he’s also had some questionable accidents. I was one of the people saying it was wrong he didn’t get a chance in F1, but now I think I was wrong. I’m not sure he’d have faired any better than F2 and FE champion De Vries.

    3. Agreed. Herta had the opportunity to score points, and didn’t. Antonelli did. He’s just young. It’s not really the same.

      1. He scored the points in a much less competitive field than Indycar

  4. Stephen Taylor
    14th June 2024, 18:20

    The FIA nly tweaked the age criteria they did not change the success points criteria which Antonelli had already met regardless . Herta was rejected for a licence because he didn;t get the 40 points in juniour series Antonelli has. The situations between Herta and Antonelli can’t be compared.

    1. Stephen Taylor
      14th June 2024, 18:23


    2. But why is the 40-point criterion immutable while the age one isn’t? If the FIA can grant themselves discretion to approve an underage driver, why can’t they have the same discretion to approve a driver who doesn’t quite meet the points limit?

      1. A COVID-related criteria existed for the points system but Herta didn’t meet this criteria either.

        1. Something that could have been easily remedied I am assuming though. He didn’t have a vaccination or something?

          Anyone who finishes in the top ten in IndyCar should be granted a super license. If they’re not good enough, they’ll quickly be cut. But they’re not going to be a danger like some rookie who is both inexperienced and not fast enough.

          1. Nick T. What I referred to was that 30 points were enough for drivers who’d been affected by COVID, such as Juri Vips, while Herta wasn’t at any point any more than any other IndyCar driver.

        2. BTW, I’m fully in favor of Kimi being granted the license. Just saying, all of it is ridiculous. The only aspect I agree with is the part that would have kept out nobodies like Mazepin from F1. The guy finished 18th in the standings in one of the best F2 cars.

      2. Should be obvious why? the 40 points is a “good enough” requirement, age is just “old enough”.

        Herta wasn’t good enough, no reason to give him an exception.

        1. If all your racing is in F2 and F3 and you don’t have 40 points, you’re not good enough yet.

          If you’ve won in Indycar, Formula E, Japan and you don’t have 40 points – you just haven’t grovelled at the alter of the FIA sufficiently.

          We all know that winning in Indycar is tougher than F3. Maybe not F1, but – we won’t find out if the FIA are too territorial to let their drivers try.

    3. Except Herta did not race in junior series but rather in a top class series which was, and still is, severely undervalued in the superlicense points allocation.

  5. The FIA is just interested in stroking Toto at the moment. Herta is from the wrong side of the tracks.

    1. People should realize that Toto didn’s ask for any of this.

      1. He didn’t need to. It was painfully obvious what he wanted.They were testing him,making all kinds of wave in the media about giving Antonelli the seat in 2025. They pretty much drew FIA a map. But, if you’re an American driver and as good or better than Antonelli, it’s impossible to get the same consideration. It’s not a level playing field.

      2. Yes. We. Know…!

      3. Toto has said he didn’t ask the FIA.

        But he might have asked Williams to ask the FIA. He might have offered Williams a pot of money to pursue this and give Antonelli some early experience.

        He’s given a narrow, cautiously-worded sounds-like-a-denial.

        To anyone used to following F1, or politics, or business… carefully saying what you didn’t do while not denying what everyone *has heard* you did is halfway to an admission.

        Especially when we know that someone asked, and it’s Toto’s driver who will benefit!

        1. Riccard He would’ve said so in Miami had he asked Williams to ask on behalf.

          1. Likewise, James would’ve said they’d been asking either in Miami or Imola if even that scenario were the case.
            The only people who could’ve realistically asked for a dispensation in the first place are family or other close individuals.

  6. Herta’s case was solely about the points system rather than the age limit, so apples to oranges comparison.

    1. The points system favors European drivers in European feeder series. Any Indycar driver that qualifies for the Indy 500 should automatically get a Super License from FIA.

      1. True, which is understandable given FIA is Paris-based, not to mention F2 & F3 are official feeder series for F1, not that IndyCar, Super Formula, etc., should get devalued.
        However, I don’t find qualifying for the Indy 500 necessarily a valid argument for an automatic granting.

    2. You seem to think people are questioning where Kimi deserved the exception. I think everyone does. I think most also believe Herta deserved an exception too. F2 results shouldn’t be rated more highly than IndyCar results, especially since while the cars are technically all equal, there are still teams that are clearly better than others.

      1. whether*

  7. It’ll never happen, but the FIA ought to give Indycar drivers superlicense points just for making it into the Indy 500’s “Fast Six”.

    1. greasemonkey
      14th June 2024, 20:19

      FIA’s attitude is almost the opposite. Make the Fast Six and you are “DQ-ed from a superlicense” is more likely.

    2. BMW P85 V10
      14th June 2024, 22:03

      The Indy 500 is further away from F1 then any of the feeder cathegories. Good scores on circuits like Road America, Laguna Seca and the likes should be valued by the FIA.

      1. The Indy 500 is a driving challenge beyond what most F1 drivers will ever experience.

        1. The Indy 500 is a driving challenge beyond what most F1 drivers will ever experience.

          You should probably say “The Indy 500 is a driving challenge different to what most F1 drivers will ever experience.”

          Something of a shortage of right hand corners on the Indy circuit, I think. Thus rather different to all F1 tracks.

  8. The Dolphins
    14th June 2024, 19:37

    For anyone commenting about “apples and oranges” please read the article again and in its entirety; you are missing the point.

    1. I read it, the “apples and oranges” arguments stand
      Kimi’s situation is about letting an over qualified driver race months earlier
      Herta’s situation is about letting a driver who has never once qualified for a super license race EVEN WITH modified COVID exceptions to the preexisting rule

      Keith is making the driver’s license argument seem bigger than it is by inflating the changes made i.e.

      for not one but two alterations to the license rules were needed to open a door for Antonelli.

      being able to parallel park is not and has never been a litmus test to pilot a formula 1 vehicle. you know it, I know it, Keith knows it and finally the FIA has realized that – I assume it was a band aid to provide legitimacy to the reaction of Max’s entry. The rule should have rightfully been binned. In Kimi’s case, like Keith mentioned, it’d have held him up for an extra two months unnecessarily.

      Keith is just upset the FIA have once again, prioritized their feeder series – a thing any motorsport governing body worth their salt would do and have done. What do you guys think road to f1 is?
      It’s not that deep but to be upset about it, you need it – this clearly arbitrary dispensation of super license points to mean much more, to be a totem and objective metric of driver ability and skill across disciplines and series – and it has never once been that. It’s goal was to limit entry for pay and bad drivers and funnel talent through a preferred router and it has done a decent job at it. Roy Nissany has never competed in formula one and you can thank this rule almost exclusively.

      I don’t even understand Keith’s argument that if the FIA can grant itself the power to allow under 18 years then it should do the same for people who don’t meet the 40 point criteria. It’s asinine and disingenuous. The only thing stopping that 18 year old is the ONE thing they can’t control: time. Everything else? signed, sealed and delivered by Kimi and his camp. What force majeure hindered or continues to hinder Herta’s ability to meet the 40 point requirement? This is the thing that bothers me about the Herta argument – he can’t be so impressive and good enough that he should be rightfully (I would personally like to add) applauded for holding his own in the stacked field of Indycar but exceptions need to be made and rules need to be revised to roll the carpet for a formula one entry. He’s either good enough or he needs to get better. Pato just picked up his SL and he’s now McLaren’s reserve, he did it driving in the same “driver’s championship” series Herta is in.

      I’m not even going to talk about lumping Andretti’s bid into this like some mic drop moment.
      it was tactless, the FIA already gave them the green light Keith, yes MBS’ latest comments withstanding.
      you’re beef is with FOM on that one Keith

      1. 5 years ago Pato was shafted out of his super license because they FIA changed the points payout for his Indy Lights championship. I believe he was in Super Formula at the time with Red Bull support.

        1. shafted is a pretty strong word although I wouldn’t begrudge a fellow Pato fan from using it

          If I remember correctly,
          Pato was given a reduced pay out of points because his 2018 indy lights campaign did not have enough competition.
          I believe he competed with 7 full time entries across ten rounds with a sprinkling of a few appearances from other drivers who never raced more than two rounds.

          Whether or not that is fair is up for discussion. I can very easily see both sides of the argument: Pato’s camp arguing he can’t control car count while the FIA camp arguing they need to ensure loopholes aren’t generated so as to not game and sneak your way into 40 points. They could also argue it’s not their responsibility to maintain the health of Indy Lights/NXT. Roger sure is doing an amazing job at that

          Either way, it’s kind of a moment of serendipity that the same governing body that shot down his hopes of staying a Red Bull junior handed him the loophole he just used to join McLaren’s reserve driver pool.

      2. He’s either good enough or he needs to get better. 

        Plus an Indycar driver has the added advantage of having multiple years to get the points, as it is the top national class and drivers aren’t expected to move on after one or two years. Even before the recent upgrade to Indycars points allocation, it was very much possible to get there. I added up the numbers last year and there were like six or so eligible drivers based on Indycar points alone. Herta just doesn’t have the results.

  9. The Dolphins
    14th June 2024, 19:52

    The goal is to put everybody through the same meat grinder by forcing drivers through F3, F2, to F1 with little regard for the increasing cost of climbing that ladder. The only reason IndyCar is not on par with F2 in points is to serve the interests of F1. It’s to the detriment of the teams and another reason why a FOTA should be re-established as the current Concorde agreement comes to as end in ‘25

    1. greasemonkey
      14th June 2024, 20:16

      Honestly, from what I’d call real race craft, from both a driver’s and spectator’s POV, I think both F2 and IndyCar are above F1. Sure, we get a sprinkle here and there in F1 (and since the drivers doing those F1 moments are usually really good, those are good sprinkles), but F2 and IndyCar are both dripping wet in real racing.

    2. I’m sorry, but FIA’s goal is to ignore racing series in the US.

      1. 100%. The top IndyCar drivers are also only in those seats because they produce the results. Meanwhile, $ can you get to F2 and money can give you an unfair edge in F2. While the cars are equal, the engineers and all the work that goes into setting up the cars, unlimited outside testing, etc., make it more easy to game through $ than it being a spec series likely make it appear on the outside.

      2. David Thatcher
        15th June 2024, 4:21


  10. This rule isn’t even a rule. It’s too arbitrary for that. So they will judge who proved to be a mature enough character? How? Is Magnusen that? Is Tsunoda? Does Sargeant show outstanding ability, when he spins around every single weekend. At least one (usually twice or thrice)? Who can be the judge of one’s maturity and character, even ability? Does this mean that some will be accepted, some refused, based on who is behind them, or how likeable they are to someone from FIA? What a joke. So it’s like a rule, bla, bla, whatever, but in the end it will be what some big guy says, and the rest od the world be damned? Nice.
    At least Toto does these things well, since he obviously can’t manage a team that doesn’t have ultra-dominant engines.

    1. Showing outstanding ability basically refers to being able to drive a modern F1 car at proper racing speeds consistently without a struggle, although maturity is more difficult to judge precisely, so I agree that giving flexibility with the age limit by effectively turning it from a hard limit to a default/base one risks different treatment, although FIA needs to be careful & absolutely sure that they treat everyone equally & fairly without double-standards by definition appearing to any extent.

    2. Only applies to under 18. If you’re at least 18 and you have enough superlicense points, you’ll get in assuming you have a seat.

  11. Herta didn’t make it because he didn’t have enough superlicense points. If they changed the superlicense requirements, I would have understood the reason for the article. As it is, they didn’t change it, the points requirement is the same.

    One of the stupidest article I’ve read in this site in years. This just feels like sour grapes by Keith fot a driver he liked not getting in.

  12. Also, Herta is tied to Andretti – and that name is a dirty word in F1 these days…

  13. I can kinda see the point people are making about apples and oranges between Herta and Antonelli but I still don’t buy it.

    Antonelli is hardly pulling up trees in F2 at the moment and the results alone it is difficult to justify changing the rules on this alone. If he was trouncing the field like Leclerc, Piastri did then I can then see the logic but he isn’t.

    As others have said, this is about appeasing Toto even if he never made a formal request. The mere fact this happened without a formal request just shows the soft power that Toto wields!

    The superlicence system is ultimately just a mechanism to secure F2 and F3 in the racing hierarchy and eliminate competition. Herta to any reasonable observer can control and drive an F1 car safely and quickly enough, although even as a Herta fan (his ceiling is extremely high but boy his floor can be low and often) I would admit that there are other Indycar candidates such as Palou, Newgarden, O’Ward who on merit alone would be in front of him in the queue.

  14. Lyle Clarke
    14th June 2024, 23:30

    So well written. They want American money not American talent.

  15. I never felt the super license points system was really needed because it doesn’t really prove anything about how good or not a driver may be in an F1 car.

    How a driver does in other categories should be nothing more than a guide for teams to use to help decide who they want to give opportunities to. If an F1 team see’s somebody in another category they see something in & want to give an opportunity then they should be allowed to do so. Allow that driver to test an F1 car & if they show that they can handle an f1 car & are setting comparable lap times to the regular drivers then they should be allowed to race in F1.

    Why not create a sort of rookie test system like what they do at Indy. When a driver first sits in an F1 car they have to complete a rookie test program during the first day of the test to show they are able to handle an F1 car. Give them lap time ranges that they have to run in over a period of laps & gradually up the pace just like they do an Indy. If they can complete that then they get a super licence.

  16. Getem Keith!

  17. The consequence of the Super Licence system was that drivers now had to spend multiple years in cars, spending vast amount of money with a small selection of teams. As gaining big results becomes ever more vital, the prices to be in a position to gain them (be with the good teams) becomes inflated. This was obvious day one. It’s a scandal. The thing that is often overlooked with Max, and Kimi as well, isn’t that they didn’t’ spend a lot of time racing cars before F1, it’s that they didn’t spend a lot of money before F1. Relatively speaking of course.

    I do believe that the age limit should be there. 16/17 is reasonable. I think any younger and we have issues about child protection etc… but everything else is a bit of a nonsense.

    Motorsport isn’t a pure results driven business, if you’re looking just at drivers. This is why it’s good. The best driver on the day might legitimately finished 10th. But it’s amusing to me that we have a sport like F1 where it’s set within the technical regulations that a driver can have a rubbish car and not have access to absolute results, yet the FIA put in a system below F1 that is dependent entirely on absolute results for drivers to progress. Teams should have the freedom to choose who they want, within obvious limits.

  18. It was already known last month that the FIA had received a request to alter its superlicence rules to let Andrea Kimi Antonelli make his Formula 1 debut before he turns 18.

    Repeating the statement that Antonelli can debut in F1 competition several times doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    The text of 13.1.2 clearly states:
    13.1.2 The driver must be at least 18 years old at the start of the event of his first F1 competition.

    The following text makes provision for acquiring a super licence at age 17, but it does not confer a right to compete before age 18.

  19. Liberty Media, (an American company) has done wonders for the growth of F1 want more American races and money, but the FIA won’t allow American teams or drivers in the private club to protect their feeder series and whatever else. It’s completely idiotic.

  20. F1 is just opening the door for some group to create a new version of F1 with their strangle hold on teams and drivers. If the 2026 cars don’t provide competitive racing, the door will be wide open.

    1. It is a process that is already well underway. An alternative is in the making. It was inevitable for quite some time already.

    2. It’s the teams that have said hold. They’re the bad guys in this. Liberty doesn’t care about Andretti. They didn’t care when the cut payout to the teams to fund F1TV and their YouTube channel. The teams grumbled a bit, sure, but Liberty was right to do so. Both products are by and large great.

      Something else is up. The new Concorde Agreement? Maybe. But Liberty would no doubt love to bring an American team in. None of “their” objections make sense from the POV of a media company. They read like they were written by the teams.

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