Formula 1 team bosses’ reluctance to back a move which would ease Colton Herta’s entry into the series has been met with criticism by American drivers racing in IndyCar.
Herta, who became IndyCar’s youngest-ever race winner in 2019 at the age of 18, was linked with a move into F1 last year when his Andretti team attempted to buy Sauber, which runs Alfa Romeo. That deal failed to materialise, but Herta has again been connected to an F1 switch with Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri.
But despite winning seven IndyCar races over the past four seasons, Herta has not amassed the necessary 40 FIA superlicence points in order to qualify to compete in F1. The FIA awards a total of 124 points to the top 10 finishers in IndyCar which is far fewer than junior categories Formula 2 (201) and even Formula 3 (128).
In recent years the FIA adjusted the superlicence points rules in reaction to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However suggestions the FIA could adopt a similar approach in light of Herta’s situation and allow him a superlicence as a matter of “force majeure” were given short shrift by some team bosses today.
“From my point of view it has nothing to do with force majeure because you have championships everywhere in the world that you were able to score points,” said Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur.
“If the FIA want to stop the process of the points and the superlicence it’s another story. But they can do it and it’s up to them to decide if they want to stop the system and we can survive without the system, but nothing to do for me with force majeure.”
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner echoed Vasseur’s view. “We have got rules and regulations which we need to respect,” he said. “If we don’t respect our own rules, and try to find ways around it, I don’t think that’s correct. I mean, we could then apply that to other things as well.”
“I’m one of those who says if you’ve got rules, if we don’t respect them and just try to find ways around that why we have rules, then we need to change the rules and that is a different discussion,” he said. “If you want to change the rule, let’s speak about it but, again, there’s a governance in place.”
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Their comments prompted dismay from American drivers racing in IndyCar. Conor Daly, who raced in F1 support series between 2011 and 2014 and is the son of former F1 driver Derek Daly, took issue with Steiner’s reaction.
“Oh, what a surprise,” he posted on social media. “The team principal for the ‘American’ F1 team [is] not a supporter of an American driver once again.”
Alexander Rossi, who moved to IndyCar after starting five F1 races in 2015, added: “I’m so sick of this.”
But McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who ran Herta in a test session at Autodromo do Algarve earlier this year, believes he should be given the chance to compete in F1.
“In terms of the superlicence I think in general we believe in the system, we think it’s a good system in place. But at the same time, we are absolutely up for some flexibility as well, also taking into account especially the situation in the last two years with COVID and everything, it had an impact as well on results drivers could score.
“[We’re] absolutely open for some flexibility there and handing a guy like Colton the superlicence, because in the end, with what he has shown so far in his racing career, I have no doubt that he is absolutely able to compete in Formula 1.”
The possibility of increasing the number of superlicence points awarded to IndyCar drivers in future met with more favour from the team bosses.
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“We already had the case in the past when we changed the attribution of the points in F3, GP3 and even F2 a couple of years ago,” said Vasseur. “I think that the global picture of the championship is always changing and moving and we have to adjust the number of points for every single series now, to know if the top five of F2 is better than the top five of Indy.”
“But as Guenther said before, I think that we have a system that if we want to change or if someone has a proposal to change the point attribution, that we can discuss it,” he concluded.