Colton Herta’s first Formula One test is now behind him. He’ll hop on a plane and head to North America to get back in the mindset for a grueling 7 race, 9 week stretch to the finish of the NTT INDYCAR Series season. Herta, 22, sits 11th in the standings as we just crossed into the 2nd half of the season at Mid-Ohio.
However, if he wants to have a future in F1, he has to close the gap to the front. He completed 162 laps in the 2-day test at the Portugal road course in last year’s McLaren F1 car. This was a designed test date for him.
By all accounts, the test went well. The problem is, you can’t really correlate Monday and Tuesday’s sessions to last year’s drivers in F1 because of varying conditions. However, it sounds like Herta did well and he not only impressed the McLaren brass, but himself too.
The next step would be an appearance in a Friday practice session which would occur after the INDYCAR season is over. There’s just no time between now and mid September to allow Herta to be in a car for McLaren in F1.
After his season concludes though, there’s plenty of time. McLaren has to use at least 2 FP1 sessions with a rookie driver.
Races After INDYCAR Season
- Singapore (Oct. 2)
- Japan (Oct. 9)
- United States (Oct. 23)
- Mexico (Oct. 30)
- Brazil (Nov. 13)
- Abu Dhabi (Nov. 20)
Obviously the one at COTA makes the most sense as both he and current Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward are in the running to make an appearance in 1 of these sessions. Herta for USA and O’Ward for Mexico makes the most logical sense.
Lando Norris is signed long term for 1 of the McLaren cars but the 2nd seat could be open as soon as 2024. With Andretti Autosport’s bid to be on the grid for the 2024 season looking longer and longer by the day, could McLaren really be in play to sway Herta away from Andretti?
Herta isn’t hiding the fact that an F1 ride is a dream of his but he needs to do so sooner rather than later. O’Ward says the same thing. If you’re not in F1 by the age of 25, forget about it. Which is why both appear to be on a collision course for Daniel Ricciardo’s seat for 2024.
O’Ward is gaining superlicense points by finishing 4th in points in 2020, 3rd last year and currently sitting 5th (-65) this year.
Herta though has some work to do in a sense that he has to get into the top 4 in the standings. He’s 74 points out of that with 8 races left.
If he can get into the top 4 and get a pair of FP1 sessions, he gets to the magic number of 40 superlicense points. That’s why he has to make a charge starting in Toronto because if 4th doesn’t look attainable, then why put him in more than 1 FP1 this year?
He and O’Ward aren’t the only drivers in this program vying for this seat and a McLaren F1 future. McLaren doesn’t want to wait too long before planning the next phase for these drivers. Which is why Herta needs a strong result in almost every race the rest of the year out.