Colton Herta’s first Formula 1 test with the McLaren Racing team at Portugal’s Portimão circuit left the NTT IndyCar Series star with plenty of positive impressions.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said of the run in last year’s Mercedes-powered McLaren MCL35M. “Great two days getting acclimated to the car, which is obviously quite a different car from what I’m used to driving.
“A little bit of a different driving style, but the engineers were very helpful getting me up to speed. And what a car to drive; it’s really special. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Although the two days of running were meant to give Herta a chance to work his way up to speed at his own pace, taking things slowly was not part of the Californian’s plans.
“It’s hard to get in a race car without driving as fast as possible as fast as you possibly can,” he said. “So that was really the goal when I got over here was to get acclimated, get up to speed and really see what I can do in the race car.
“It handled beautifully. I was able to make some set of adjustments in the afternoon and get it more to my liking. It was it was good just to kind of see what these cars are all about and see the physicality differences to an IndyCar.”
Comparing the MCL35M to his Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda, Herta enjoyed the extra 200hp or so delivered by the hybrid 1.6-liter turbo engine and all the other areas of increased performance the McLaren offered.
“I think the first thing was right off the pit lane speed limiter is all the torque is pretty incredible,” he said. “Even when you’re in such low RPM. That was the biggest thing for me; the straight-line speed, the acceleration and the braking.
“Obviously the cornering speeds were higher than what you would get in an Indy car, but it didn’t stick out to me as much as the acceleration and how easy it was with all the downforce.
“It is a completely different feel. Obviously, the feeling you get from an Indy car is way different because of the lack of power steering. So the overall kickback and smoothness of the wheel doesn’t really transcribe what you get from a grand prix car.
“So that was something we get used to. Slowing down the hands. And obviously the speed’s a lot higher on the road courses, but overall, it was it was good to get a feeling and a taste of what these things can do.”
Herta says he learned plenty during his maiden F1 outing and has some work to do whenever his next run takes place later in the year.
“I felt comfortable right away,” he added. “The biggest thing was putting a lap together. I felt like I got to the limit about midway through the day, but that was just separate corners being put together. At the end of the second day. I was pretty confident putting the laps together, low fuel, high fuel, and everything in between. And it took a while for sure.
“We’re able to go through a lot of different things, a lot of different balance changes, mechanically, aerodynamically with the car. And then inside the car itself with all the tools all that sort of stuff. So it was pretty cool to see the balance changes and what you do in the car just inside your car, which is quite a bit more than what we’re able to do in IndyCar.
“It was awesome. If you have a problem in a corner, you can adjust it with a flick of a finger. I did get really comfortable and I could feel the limit; maybe not the consistency. That will come from a few more days [of testing], but I felt like I was close.”