Colton Herta, Miami International Autodrome, 2022

Herta tipped for Alpine test in latest twist to Red Bull saga

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Colton Herta is expected to take part in his second Formula 1 test later this year as Red Bull continue their efforts to place the IndyCar driver at their junior team in 2023.

However Herta’s next F1 run is not expected to involve Red Bull, AlphaTauri or McLaren – who signed him as a test driver in March and ran him at Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal this July in a private test.

Herta is being lined up for a test at Alpine, potentially ahead of the next race at Singapore in two weeks’ time. Alpine is believed to be interested in the services of Pierre Gasly, who AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost indicated last week could be released from his 2023 contract to make way for Herta.

“It is a decision from Red Bull which driver they will bring into the team,” said Tost. “But I think if it’s not Colton Herta, then Pierre Gasly will stay and nothing will change.”

However that depends on Herta, who does not currently have enough FIA superlicence points to race in F1 despite his seven IndyCar race victories over the past four seasons, being allowed to compete in the series.

“It’s a decision from the FIA whether he gets the superlicence or not, and I hope that FIA will take this decision as soon as possible so that we know how to build up the team and where to go for next year,” said Tost.

Several rival teams remain opposed to any kind of rules break to allow Herta to race in F1. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said it would undermine the investment they have made in placing their junior drivers in series which the FIA values more highly than IndyCar.

“We are investing a lot in our Ferrari Driver Academy and continue to do so,” he said. “I think force majeure cannot be used for Herta. That will be a completely wrong approach.

“Regulations are in place in order to protect our sports and make sure that we’re making the right process and choices for our sport itself. So Herta may participate in the championship, [when] he’s got what are the requirements to do so and not differently.

“I think that’s very important and we will certainly over-view what the FIA will do in that respect. And I think each single team will do so because it’s for the importance of our sport. We cannot have force majeure or whatever are the situations, which is not a force majeure, certainly in that case.”

Herta fell to 10th in the IndyCar series this year, his lowest position since entering the championship full-time in 2019. He peaked at third in 2020.

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Keith Collantine
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63 comments on “Herta tipped for Alpine test in latest twist to Red Bull saga”

  1. On it’s face the Ferrari argument is solid. Except for the question of what the issue would be, from a driving perspective, of giving Herta a super license. Is there honest doubt he’d be able to do the job as well as Latifi has been doing (Spa?) or than Mazepin did last year?

    Of course, that comes back to the whole rationale of how this system is set up. As a reaction to Verstappen coming in at a young age and with little experience. But both Red Bull and Mercedes did believe he was ready (though Merc. didn’t have a place to offer him) and so he got a license.

    Currently he wouldn’t be able to. But looking at his results from the start, he hasn’t made many rookie errors, being a fast and quite reliable driver. So that seems to say that the process that allowed him in works, while some of those that did qualify, seem to have been of clearly less quality. It really seems to say that the process is not fit for purpose, doesn’t it? Perhaps Indy, for example, needs a bit more credit then?

    Anyway, interesting how Alpine is assisting in getting Herta in, so I guess there’s at least three teams who wouldn’t vote against him then?

    1. These are two separate questions:

      1. Is the current points system fair to IndyCar? Almost certainly not, IndyLights champ Linus Lundqvist qualifies for a Super Licence but Herta does not
      2. With the current points system, should Herta be given a licence anyway? This is the question being contested by Ferrari and many others.

      1. IndyLights champ Linus Lundqvist qualifies for a Super Licence but Herta does not

        But that is only half the story. Lundqvist has a recent record of repeated success in multiple series. Herta, whatever his talents may be, does not.

        Lundqvist also didn’t get the required points from Indy Lights alone. He has 15 from 2022 (1st in Indy Lights), 10 from 2021 (3rd in Indy Lights), and crucially a further 18 from 2020 (1st in FIA F3 Americas).

        1. Lundqvist also didn’t get the required points from Indy Lights alone. He has 15 from 2022 (1st in Indy Lights), 10 from 2021 (3rd in Indy Lights), and crucially a further 18 from 2020 (1st in FIA F3 Americas).

          And here lies the issue – FIA F3 Americas is laughably weak and is basically a feeder series to the IndyCar ladder system (good ones end up in IndyLights, the rest start from the bottom with US F2000). But due to the FIA bias toward their own sanctioned series a championship title in F3 Americas is worth more than a championship title in Indy Lights. Which is as if F3 (in Europe) would be worth more than F2.

          Another problem for Hertha is that his 2018 Indy Lights season result (a 2nd) is not being counted due to the field being judged too small; with those points he’d have enough…

          1. Herta could in theory have gotten 40 points, but only thanks to the COVID rules which would have allowed him to ignore 2019 and combine the 2017, 2018 and 2020 results. Otherwise those theoretical 10 points from 2017 would have been dropped and he’d have to take 40 points from 2018-2019-2020, in which he came up (just) short. His subsequent poor results in 2021 and 2022 make any other combination from the last four years impossible. And at this point, the 2017 season is almost six years ago. That Herta hasn’t been able to gather more points might be seen by the FIA as a good reason to just ignore his lobby.

            For my part, I’m sure Herta would do no worse than Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Mazepin, Zhou or such. But at the same time there are plenty of other drivers who do have the points, and who have been much more succesful in their series of choice* than Herta.

            *Choice here is relative, of course. It’s still very much a game dominated by people with (too much) money and in-crowd nepotism so a driver’s options are always limited when he lacks one or both.

          2. @bosyber I think the reality of it all is that Herta has not been racing well enough, and hence is not currently scoring or winning enough to earn enough super license points. It sounds like everyone is looking to come up with all kinds of outlier excuses and reasons why he should but also not looking at the actual present & recent two years of his racing career. He just finished 10th overall in indy, with his teammate Rossi beating him (who failed in F1). Last year Herta finished 5th overall, 100 points behind series winner. He’s regularly being beaten by quite a few other Indy drivers, should they get more super license points than Herta?

            Another point of view, if you let Herta in, then every F1 team could make the case for their junior drivers to get in early. Teams spend millions of dollars to get their junior drivers enough super license points and have to wait a long time to achieve the points. They would all fight to get their drivers in if short on points.
            If Herta is allowed, then why not let Sargeant get a Super License too if he finishes 5th overall or lower in F2?

            If would open the flood gates of many more sub par, not ready for prime time drivers being able to race in F1.

          3. @redpill @chrischrill MichaelN, thanks for the solid discussion.

    2. Well said! This entire superlicense points system is flawed. FIA gave an unfair advantage to its own championships and caused the demise of the competitive World Series by Renault 3.5 series (btw, I also loved the wide look of those cars). Motor racing is such a complex sport, with so many variables at work, that awarding points based on mere on-paper results would be insufficient and inaccurate.

    3. Like it or not, F2 is very expensive and many parents have spent a huge amount of money and lobbied sponsors to get their son or daughter to a place in that series with the hope they will eventually make it to F1. I’m not against IndyCar drivers, I think those drivers should be given points equitable to the skill level required, but I also think F1 teams should offer more encouragement to the racing series they created as a feeder series to F1.

      1. I thought the whole point of having a licensing process in place was to create a meritocracy and weed out the ride buyers, if so then the matter of how much did who pay should be irrelevant…

        1. That is exactly what its suppose to be for; otherwise it would open the flood gates of many more sub par, not ready for prime time drivers being able to race in F1.

  2. I struggle to understand the hype around Herta. Sure, he was the equal highest finisher in the Andretti camp, tied with an ex-F1 driver who never really showed anything and just ahead of another ex-F1 driver in only his second season. What he has shown is an amazing ability to throw it at the weeds at any opportunity, even when dominating the field.

    How many Apline’s are sold in the US of A, or even BWT bottles for that matter?

    If he does make it to F1, I’d suggest standing back from the barriers and be prepared for the occasional, random, amazing result. Certainly won’t be boring.

    1. Another De Vries.

    2. @bob2 Herta’s performance on ovals isn’t very likely relevant to F1 performance. In road course standings, despite his inconsistency, Herta has finished P2, P2, and P6 the past three seasons. Who knows how his skills would transfer to F1 (well, McLaren do), but he’s certainly, along with Palou, the cream of the crop in IndyCar talent at turning left and right.

      1. I’d challenge that comparison to Palou, who became champion in his second year in Indy and has continued to perform brilliantly. He also does have enough superlicense points. I rank Palou and O’Ward ahead of Herta, and so does the standings table for the last two years.

        1. @ajpennypacker I’m with you on Palou, I’d also rate him ahead of Herta. But I’d put them both above O’Ward, at least in terms of potential suitability for F1. O’Ward’s only been ahead of Herta the past two years because he was the oval champion both seasons. On road courses, Herta’s had a substantial edge over O’Ward—by 56 points this year and 72 points last year.

    3. I read this as possibly being Alpine doing Red Bull a favour so that Red Bull will be more helpful in releasing the driver Alpine would like to get in their car from his Red Bull contract @bob2.

      And the sport itself, as well as probably Red Bull, are interested in getting a guy from the USA to do the job – I guess Herta is the one most acutely interested, prepared to make the step and possibly with some backing behind him to facilitate it.

      We’ll only know whether he can perform if they get him into that car and give him a season or 2 to show us. Vandoorned looked like he was a great F1 prospect based on his previous racing, and he never really shone, while nobody was too sure about Zhou who has so far shown he is able to more or less match Bottas in his rookie season.

      1. And the sport itself, as well as probably Red Bull, are interested in getting a guy from the USA to do the job – I guess Herta is the one most acutely interested, prepared to make the step and possibly with some backing behind him to facilitate it.

        Then they can give him a seat in F2 that they control – if he’s as good as they keep saying then he’ll win the F2 title next season and be ready to move into F1.

        Or they can persuade the FIA to tweak the points system so that the points he accrues next season match the requirements for F1.

        I think the former is in the teams hands and therefore much easier to achieve. No accusations of dodgy dealings in FIA even remotely possible from that unless you’re a Q-Anon believer.

    4. Red Bull want Herta as he’s the best American open-wheel driver under the age of 30 they might be able to get hold of. The hope is his presence will boost F1 ratings and Red Bull in the US.

      Herta is no different to Zhou and Tsunoda; they’re there to give Chinese and Japanese audiences someone to support. All three lack the talent required for F1 and none of them should be on the grid. Fast drivers are more fun to watch than slow ones, regardless of nationality.

  3. I don’t really mind if an Indycar driver who has experienced a season or two to come to F1. I don’t doubt that they would do as decent job of a job if not better than some of the fortunate pay drivers that raced in F1 within the last 5 years. However, I just can’t see Herta doing anything more than some other drivers in the market or lower Formula categories. He is in the top half of the better drivers of Indy car but he is inconsistent, emotional and easily discouraged through out a race. You can see the spark but he wouldn’t have been my first choice from the current Indycar field. I guess also all the better Indycar drivers are more strongly tied to the series and American sponsors than he is.

  4. Is there any other series Herta could jump into to attempt to get more super license points before the start of the 2023 F1 season?

    1. Yes, there are Asian series running in the Northern hemisphere winter. He could run those, plus do some FP1 outings, to get 40 in time for next season.

      1. @chrischrill
        Although, he’d still have to finish high enough to reach the remaining points, which would be another matter.

  5. “Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said it would undermine the investment they have made in placing their junior drivers in series which the FIA values more highly than IndyCar.”

    Pretty hard to argue with that. They made their decision to try and make Indycar look like a poor series and now that decision is biting them in the bum – tough.

    On a separate note, if they are going to adjust the points to allow Herta in, they better do it for everyone (not just him). I don’t know what the points totals are for everyone but I imagine there are other Indycar drivers who would qualify for a Superlicence if the points were changed.

    1. They should just increase the points accorded to Indycar effective immediately

    2. I’ll play devil’s advocate here for a minute. The point of the superlicence program is to ensure the drivers coming into F1 have the necessary talent to avoid becoming a moving chicane and are prepared mentally and physically to drive an F1 car. If Herta has the speed and is prepared to drive an F1 car, why shouldn’t he be able to get a superlicence despite where he gained the skills necessary to drive an F1 car?

      Having said that and having watched Herta in IndyCar the last few years, I think he has natural speed and is an agressive driver but I don’t think he is ready for F1 yet. It would be great to have a talented American in F1 for all sorts of reasons, but I think this year especially he has shown he is not quite mentally prepared to deal with the pressures of F1. This season did not go well for them and he lashed out at his father/strategist on more than one occasion in ways that showed me the pressure was getting to him. IndyCar has far less pressure than F1, so if he was adversely affected by the pressure there, I think he will really not handle the pressure of F1 very well. I think another season or two of maturing in IndyCar will do him well in the long run.

      1. @g-funk To play devil’s advocate to your devil’s advocate…

        I think the sport is enriched by those who show up and reveal themselves to be unworthy, and the sport to be too much of a challenge for them. Part of the intrigue of any sport is watching rookies come in who are not ready to succeed, who fail, try again, then mature and eventually succeed — or not. How boring would it be if every rookie coming into F1 were completely prepared by the ladder for success?

        I want to see teams take risks on drivers and fail. I want to see drivers be able to come from IndyCar and flame out spectacularly. Here we are, decades later, still talking about Michael Andretti’s disastrous run at McLaren, with resentment and disappointment and patriarchal psychology feeding a plethora of storylines even today. Far from embarrassing the sport, it enhances its mythos and lore.

        If “dealing with the pressure of F1” and “not lashing out” were prerequisites for a superlicence, I think Yuki Tsunoda might have struggled to qualify — and the sport would be poorer for it. I think it’s sufficient for drivers to demonstrate that they are not dangerous to others, and let competition sort the rest — especially now that the teams are all on solid enough financial ground to not need to go looking for pay drivers.

        1. @markzastrow All excellent points! But to play devil’s advocate to your devil’s advocate to my devil’s advocate, I think too much is riding on the first American driver in the Drive to Survive era to allow him to flame out. It would set things back for American F1 fandom quite a bit if he spectacularly flamed out, however much it may enhance the show for the rest of the world.

        2. @markzastrow I think the sport is enriched by those who show up and reveal themselves to be unworthy, and the sport to be too much of a challenge for them.

          I like this sentence. I think you’re correct. We might need the poor to illustrate the good. I’m not saying that we should be throwing lots of less than brilliant drivers into the ring. But they do highlight the talents of Max, Lewis et al when after years of junior categories they still can’t get close to them.

          I think it’s better than dismissing some as pay drivers – it shows that even those with a bit of talent, can’t get close to them.

  6. The rumour mill is all over the place. De Vries, Gasly, Herta, Schumacher and Doohan all in the frame in Alpine, Gasly, Schumacher, Herta in the frame in AlphaTauri, Giovinazzi, Hulkenberg, Schumacher thereabouts in Haas, and Schumacher, De Vries, Sargeant all in the running in Williams.

    1. @wsrgo IKR.
      People are seemingly hell-bent on over-speculating & thus attaching the same names to more than one team.

      1. Yeah but it’s fun 🙂.

  7. With drivers like Illot, Drugovich, Lundgaard, Pourchaire and of course de Vries without a seat for next year, I don’t really understand why red bull is so desparate to sign this driver (know some of these have contract with other teams, but with none of them having a clear route to F1, I’m sure something could be worked out if they tried). I don’t know much about indycar, but his racing record looks solid but not spectular. Is there something I’m missing?

    1. You have valid driver’s stated for sure (de Veies, amazing drive), and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, I really think it’s because Herta is American and Red Bull would/could benefit having him in F1, with America adding F1 races to the calendar. IMO Red Bull here in the States is more identifiable to the current non F1 fans over say BWT, but testing for Alpine kills my last thought, heheh.

    2. @jonzza The fact that McLaren spent money for a 2 day private test and Red Bull seemingly unwilling to promote anyone but Herta (even though they have a ample stable of younger drivers, they should all be very worried) should indicate the requiste level of talent.

      Herta’s record this year wasn’t great (as were all other Andretti cars) and he has had better championship results in the past but he has delivered performances that indicate a very high ceiling if the car is in the right place. He is a bit crash happy mind, although it will be easier to coach out crashes than add speed.

    3. @jonzza He’s American.

  8. All this time being spent on a bang average driver from a glorified regional spec series – I am at a complete loss on this. Is he really that good that rules need to be bent out of shape to gerrymander him into a top championship? What about the racers that HAVE follower the rules and HAVE the points for a superlicense?

    1. Racers like Latifi and Mazepin for example? 😬

      1. They may be poor (ok – VERY poor), but they have followed the feeder series as FIA want them too, and gained the required points. Aside from that we both know there are better drivers with a super-license than the two you mention – but well done for getting a reaction.

        1. Your point about following the rules would resonate further if the purpose and results of the revised Supelicense rules worked. For me, they do not.

          The new rules were a reaction to Max’s quick rise into F1. Verstappen has shown (as did Kimi) that there is not a specific number of races or string of results that predict whether or not someone is an appropriate choice for an F1 drive (or a future champion). Latifi, Mazepin and others have shown that clearing the 40 point bar means little when you have nearly unlimited funds and seasons in F3 and F2.

          I don’t think tearing down the system to allow Herta to race makes the most sense -but ‘now’ is always the best time to do the right thing. Just revise the stupid system.

          1. Latifi, Mazepin and others have shown that clearing the 40 point bar means little when you have nearly unlimited funds and seasons in F3 and F2.

            That’s actually what’s hurting Herta’s chances. The points need to be accumulated within three years (or four, because of COVID, though only the three highest scoring count). If Herta could have collected points throughout his career, he’d be much better off as he’d be able to add his 2017 and 2018 results from Indy Lights.

          2. Hi Doug, My point is that Indy has a similar SL points setup as F2 – so why the necessity for a change these rules for a driver that on paper is absolutely unremarkable (10th in Indycar standings) within his own series? Just because the points system doesn’t do what a team wants doesn’t mean it’s broken, it can also means that what they want is not reasonable within the rules.

          3. Fair points, all.

            I was attempting to limit my comment to: “I am against a system that would stop Max from racing and allows Mazepin”. That, I’m sure of.
            I’m not sure how to fix it, though.

            In truth, (and as an American), I don’t really get Herta as a prospect. I think I’d choose O’Ward from the crop of young Indy drivers.

            I haven’t watched that much domestic racing past few seasons but I think that if Herta had O’Ward’s results….this would be moot because he’d have more than 40pts.

            I’d also probably choose Josh Sergeant over the part of them, FWIW.

  9. With so many strong drivers in that series going for Herta makes little sense. Yes he won a few races, but that’s in a series that’s usually all over the place with race winners. I mean, Ericsson’s not the strongest driver in the world, yet he was leading the championship for months…

    Take the nationality away and this makes absolutely no sense.

    1. Ericsson did get better year on year in F1, almost matching Leclerc in their only year together (sure Leclerc was a rookie, but he was a well prepared one). As late as Brazil, near the end of the year, Ericsson qualified 6th ahead of Leclerc in P7. His car broke on the way to the grid though, if I recall correctly, and he retired after a few laps!

      1. I said “almost matching Leclerc”. That was way generous. I meant to say “often getting pretty close to Leclerc”.

    2. @fer-no65 Ericsson was leading based on his win at the Indy 500, which pays double points and isn’t very relevant to F1.

      Herta’s IndyCar results look much stronger if you filter out the ovals. He finished P10 in overall points this year, but P6 in road course standings. Last year, he was P5 overall but P2 in road course points, and in 2020 he was P3 overall and P2 again in road course points. If road course standings paid superlicence points, he’d have 66 of them.

      1. Last season Ericsson scored more points than anyone during the last half of the season. He just couldn’t repeat that this year apparently after indy and stitch together a full perfect season. Indy is extremely competitive, its easy to fall down the ranks with a couple of bad races, like it also has been with Herta, but im not sure he have shown that much more than other sharp drivers in the series.

        1. Last season Ericsson scored more points than anyone during the last half of the season.

          That doesn’t sound correct. Ericsson had a win and a second in the 2nd half of the 2021 season as his only two top 5 results; he further had another 5 top 10s and a 28th;
          In the same period Newgarden for example had 2 wins and a 2nd, a 5th, 3 more top 10s and a 21st. Palou had a couple of wins, two podiums, one more top 5, a top 10, a 20th and a 27th. Both (and probably a few more – Dixon etc) should add up to more than Ericsson’s tally.

  10. There must of been something happen at his McLaren test that impressed RB, because I can’t think of any other reason why Herta. He is consistently average in Indy car.

    1. @blueruck more that Gasly is a stain and Herta American.

    2. Herta is a 22-year old American. His appeal to Red Bull is clear.

  11. Do fp1 for multiple teams. Do for Alpine, and alpha and maybe rb then Gasly goes to Alpine and Alpha with Herta.

  12. What if F1 set aside a week during the winter break where the top three teams from the previous season provided their old cars and staff to allow all super-license holders and some select invited drivers of interest by FIA without the license to have an hour of practice and a pseudo qualifying.

    Then the fans as well as the teams would have a good idea about performance of the drivers from the various series rather than the rumours we currently rely on. (I know, some drivers are tested by the teams; but i guess telemetry is not shared between teams)

    Actually, it would be nice for us fans without access to data, if this included the current F1 drivers, as this would once and for all kill the eternal debates outside the paddock about the relative quality of the drivers versus the relative quality of the cars… I for one would love to be rid of the eternal “if X was driving for Y, then …”-claims… I guess I would even by a ticket for such an event :o)

  13. “Regulations are in place in order to protect our sports and make sure that we’re making the right process and choices for our sport itself.” Hmm, that must be why there are some many pay drivers in F1, huh Mattia?

  14. The FIA gives more points to F1 junior series because IndyCar isn’t a FIA member. The fact that kids in F3 earn about the same points as IndyCar is a complete joke. Complete bias towards their sponsored series which they certainly can do, but IndyCar may be a harder driver championship to win than F1.

    1. Well, we recently had the chance to see a certain 2-time F1 World Champion and according to many the best driver of his generation try his hand at IndyCar and all he managed to achieve was a DNF, a DNQ and a 21st. And some people still look down upon IndyCar and believe it is easy. Go figure…

  15. As much as Alpine are looking to test out Colton, a driver that is getting overlooked is Josef Newgarden. Josef has the necessary Superlicense points to enter Formula 1. He currently has 100 points based on his title in 2019 and 2 runner-up finishes in the last 2 seasons. and despite his age, he is by far the best US driver for an F1 team to test out (Well… with the exception of the “Big 4” – Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren). Alpine comes to mind.

    1. @placid I agree that Newgarden would represent a more tried and tested US driver. However he has stated multiple times about how Indycar is the best series and how he would never race anywhere else, I always read these comments as an implicit snub to F1.

      I had him down as a big outsider for the Aston Martin role given the marketing element to their presence in F1 and the US angle. Not sure if Alpine have the same marketing US need and you would need serious $$$ to get convince him to ditch the Penske seat.

  16. The whole point system is a scam. It favors the pipeline that the FIA want and handicaps everyone else. Who cares where talent comes from? Lewis has already said the greatest F1 driver to ever live is out there somewhere unknown to the world because they can’t be discovered. Do we really believe that F1 teams will hire someone who can’t handle their car properly even with the points necessary to drive? Jolyon Palmer, Mazapin etc . How do points qualify talent when underachievers get in with alarming regularity? F1 needs to to open up more opportunities not less.

    1. FIA race series has qualification system that very slightly prefers FIA race series. Shocking.

  17. At face value, “license” points in racing are about competence and safety.

    Have current F1 drivers vote on any driver getting a license. If the F1 drivers themselves are willing to drive with a given person, that is probably the best measure.

  18. It seemed long that long ago Haas were saying there was no one in IndyCar capable of competing in F1 and now half the grid seemingly wants Herta (or at least wants to give him a test).

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