The Best Chance at an American F1 Driver Next Year Is Probably Gone
The superlicense system created after Max Verstappen’s meteoric rise at Red Bull is keeping Colton Herta from an F1 drive next year with its junior team.
America’s best shot at a homegrown driver on the Formula 1 grid next year has just been probably shot down. IndyCar winner Colton Herta likely won’t amass enough super license points in time for the 2023 season to qualify as an F1 driver and the team that wanted him, Red Bull, reportedly won’t push for more.
According to Motorsport.com, Herta fell eight points short of the mandatory 40 points to get an automatic license for F1 for next year. Reportedly, there were scenarios for Herta to get those points during the off-season, although those plans may have been scrapped.
Herta was widely rumored to make the jump to F1 next year into a seat at AlphaTauri—Red Bull's junior team—likely vacated by Pierre Gasly. Helmut Marko, who is in charge of the Red Bull driver development program, told Motorsport.com the opportunity for an American F1 driver on the grid next year is an opportunity missed.
"It's a shame that people don't realize what value an American driver, especially a guy like Colton Herta, would have for the booming American market, especially with three F1 races," Marko told Motorsport-Total.
Coincidentally, the super license system was largely a result of current F1 ace Max Verstappen's rapid rise to the race series at 15 years old. Before Verstappen secured a seat at Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) he had very limited experience in F1 feeder series.
Without a clear replacement, AlphaTauri may not have a clear pick if Gasly makes a rumored move to Alpine. Marko may be especially motivated to keep Gasly in his AlphaTauri seat beyond 2022 considering his excellent performance in the seat. New Zealander Liam Lawson is the team’s reserve driver this year, but his seat time has been limited to a lone practice appearance at Spa. None of the other Red Bull drivers have as much experience, and Marko is reportedly considering drivers from outside the team’s pipeline.
Before the Italian Grand Prix, F1 boss Stefano Domenicali said granting Herta an exemption for a super license would undercut feeder series such as Formula 2 and Formula 3. What’s left unsaid is IndyCar’s role as North America’s premier open-wheel series and its standing with F1. Countless drivers have moved from F1 to IndyCar, including current drivers Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Alexander Rossi, who is the last American to drive in F1 in 2015. Scott Speed was the last American to race a full season in F1 in 2006, for AlphaTauri predecessor Toro Rosso, but was replaced in 2007 by eventual world champion Sebastian Vettel.
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