If Colton Herta continues to deliver performances like the one he uncorked on the NTT IndyCar Series field at St. Petersburg, his team owner is prepared for the phone to start ringing from Formula 1 teams expressing interest in the 21-year-old’s availability.
“From a selfish standpoint, I’m hoping he drives for me for many, many, many years,” Michael Andretti told RACER. “But then again, I don’t want to stand in his way.”
Andretti’s own saga-filled F1 journey in 1993 left the 1991 CART champion with strong opinions on how young American talent should be groomed during the transition to grand prix racing. Without naming the tail-enders, he says there are some calls that would be accepted while others would be quickly sent to voicemail.
“If a team like Ferrari calls him, I’m not going to stand in his way on it,” Andretti said. “But if one of the teams in last or second to last position in the championship over there calls, then I might say, ‘Yeah, I’d want to keep you here.’ I’d be doing him a favor by keeping him out of those teams. I know a lot of those guys over there now and I would encourage it if it’s a good situation.”
For Herta, who delivered a great Sunday for Andretti by winning in the No. 26 Honda while stablemate Jake Dennis earned his first victory for BMW i Andretti Motorsport in Formula E, the allure of F1 remains. Having spent some of his early open-wheel days in Europe as part of the Carlin Racing team, F1 was always a goal, but for the pragmatic Californian, talk is cheap.
“Any conversation about Formula 1, it doesn’t really do much for me, unless you’re putting pen to paper,” Herta said. “There’s so, so many unknowns and stuff that never ends up happening. People can say that all they want, but the fact is, until it happens, it doesn’t mean anything. I would be interested, of course. I think it’s kind of unrealistic to be, and almost arrogant, in a way, to just say, ‘Well, I need to be in a top three team.’ I think you have to work for it.”
— Colton Herta (@ColtonHerta) April 26, 2021
While his team owner would be reluctant to see Herta’s name on the side of a Haas F1 car, or similar, the driver in question wouldn’t be opposed to the idea if it was part of a bigger plan.
“Honestly, if I would get the call to go to Haas or something, it would be something I’d be interested in, but only if it was from a Ferrari-backed program, and then I had the opportunity to move up,” Herta said.
“I’m not going to go over there and sign a three-year deal just with Gene Haas, but I’d sign a deal with Ferrari, and if they put me in a car like that, I would drive it and try to get up to a top team.”
Herta received a congratulatory message from one F1 team principal on Sunday, and hopes, if nothing else, to get an invite later in the year to take part in a Young Driver F1 test.
“People are definitely watching, and I would love, if nothing comes else out of it, just test a Formula 1 car,” he said. “Because I’m sure even the bad cars feel pretty amazing to drive.”